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Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon: Speech delivered at the Samadhan National Conference 2023

Samadhan National Conference 2023
New Delhi

“Mediation: At the Dawn of a Golden Age”

The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon*
Supreme Court of Singapore

Key Messages

  1. Although many people think of litigation and arbitration when “dispute resolution” is mentioned, mediation should be seen as an equally valid and valuable mode of dispute resolution. This is because mediation is usually much cheaper and more efficient than litigation or arbitration, and it also translates to a higher likelihood of compliance and of preserving the parties’ relationship. As a result, mediation has been deployed effectively in Singapore in many areas, ranging from family justice to employment disputes and construction disputes.
  2. One of the key reasons mediation has not gained more traction, especially in commercial disputes, is the perception that settlement agreements arising from mediation are difficult to enforce. The Singapore Convention on Mediation addresses that difficulty. It is an international treaty that sets out a common approach to the enforcement of settlement agreements arising out of international commercial mediation. We should promote the adoption of the Singapore Convention by more states in order to make this approach a universal one.
  3. We should also promote excellence in the practice of mediation, by providing specialised training and accreditation for mediators. In addition, we should enhance collaboration between judges, arbitrators and mediators, because commercial dispute resolution today works as a system, with disputes flowing between litigation, arbitration and mediation as the need arises in order to find the best way of resolving the dispute.
Speech

The Honourable Mr Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and honourable members of the Indian judiciary
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

  1. A very good morning to you all. I am delighted to be back in India so soon after my last visit and I thank my friend Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul for inviting me to join you at this plenary session. I am honoured to have this opportunity to share my perspectives on the immense potential of mediation to transform the face of dispute resolution, and to speak on Singapore’s experience in this area.

  2. Dispute resolution is coming to be seen today as resting on three principal foundations: litigation, arbitration and mediation. Whereas the amicable resolution of disputes has historically played an important part in our societies,(1) the rise to eminence of mediation as a key contributor to the rule of law as part of our justice systems is a quite modern phenomenon. In my remarks today, I will begin with the suggestion that mediation’s place in today’s dispute resolution landscape should not be understated on account of its recency, because mediation offers a unique value proposition when compared to the alternatives. I will go on to explain why I consider that we are at the dawn of a golden age for mediation, because its foremost challenge, that of enforceability, is being swept away by the Singapore Convention on Mediation. I will then conclude by offering some suggestions as to what we should do to usher in this golden age.

    I. The place of mediation in dispute resolution

       A. The traditional approach to dispute resolution


  3. All of us would have grown up in a time when dispute resolution was understood to be synonymous with litigation and arbitration. At their core, these are both adjudicative approaches to dispute resolution: they involve a neutral and impartial third party pronouncing upon the legal rights and wrongs of a case by making factual findings and then applying the law to them. While the practice of dispute resolution has undoubtedly seen many changes over the past few decades, some of the most prominent of these, such as the growth of international commercial arbitration and investor-state dispute settlement, and the more recent rise of international commercial courts,(2) have all been built upon these same foundations of the adjudicative process.

  4. Arbitration and litigation each have their merits and demerits. But there is also a growing recognition of the reality that purely adjudicative approaches to dispute resolution are bedevilled by certain challenges. Some of these are long-standing, while others are new, emerging, and in some respects worsening.

  5. The first and most obvious of these is the ever-increasing level of the time and cost that is entailed in the process. This is rooted in the vital need for fairness in any adjudicative process, which in turn necessitates extensive procedural formalities and an often protracted series of interlocutory steps to get a case ready for hearing. This cost of ensuring procedural fairness scales up steadily with the size and complexity of the dispute. One estimate has put the total cost of litigation conducted by Fortune 500 corporations at as much as one-third of the companies’ after-tax profits.(3) This is an issue that plagues litigation and perhaps to an even greater extent, international commercial arbitration, where costs awards in the largest cases routinely exceed US$10 million.(4) Indeed, surveys show that international arbitration practitioners and users consider “cost” to be by far the worst characteristic of international arbitration.(5)

  6. This challenge is exacerbated by a more recent phenomenon known as the complexification of disputes.(6) This refers to the growing complexity of disputes, which manifests in increasing technical and evidential complexity. Technical complexity arises from the increasing amount of domain-specific scientific and technical knowledge that adjudicators need to grapple with.(7) In a world where contracts are entered into using algorithms and vehicles are starting to drive themselves, even relatively simple disputes can involve an inquiry into complex technical issues. At the same time, the evidential complexity of disputes has exploded, because we now rely heavily on digital communications in every aspect of our lives. This means that vast amounts of data are generated even in a modest transaction, resulting in volumes of documentary evidence that tribunals, lawyers and parties will all have to sift through and digest to come to grips with any dispute.(8)

  7. Complexification will require ever-increasing amounts of time and cost to be expended in the search for justice using a purely adjudicative approach to dispute resolution. And beyond this, the complexification of disputes gives rise to the very real possibility of disputes becoming so large and complex that a human adjudicator may not even be mentally capable of absorbing and processing all of the material.(9) By way of example, in one construction arbitration, the claimant was said to have asserted more than 120,000 disruptive events that impacted the project’s schedule, while the respondent counterclaimed for thousands of defects.(10) In such a case, it would be virtually impossible for a trier of fact to give each disputed fact the sort of attention that would typically be needed to make a sound determination of the parties’ rights. This seems to cry out for an approach that would radically downsize and simplify the issues in dispute; but an adjudicator would be hard-pressed to achieve this if either of the parties were to insist on advancing and trying its claims as pleaded. 

  8. This leads me to the next set of major challenges that bedevil adjudicative modes of dispute resolution, and that is the lack of control over process and outcomes. This is perhaps most evident in litigation, because procedural and evidential rules in litigation were devised in a different time and with a very different understanding of the likely scale of typical disputes; and they were designed to ensure scrupulous fairness, in cases where the parties were typically locked in a hostile stance towards each other. In such cases, the process is usually binary, producing a winner and a loser; and it incentivises the deployment of procedural skirmishes to achieve tactical victories. While arbitration was once thought to offer a better process characterised by procedural flexibility and proportionality, it, too, has become dogged by its own challenges. Nearly 35 years ago, Lord Mustill wryly observed that international commercial arbitration might be acquiring in his words “all the elephantine laboriousness of an action in court, without the saving grace of the exasperated judge’s power to bang together the heads of recalcitrant parties”.(11) In more recent times, I have spoken about the phenomenon of “due process paranoia”:(12) this describes the widely observed trend of disgruntled parties contriving allegations of breaches of natural justice in an effort to set aside an arbitral award. It has been suggested that this has caused some arbitrators to become overly cautious and to indulge the dilatory tactics of parties, for fear of their awards being set aside.

  9. Accompanying this lack of control over process in adjudication is the parties’ lack of control over outcomes. Simply put, all power over the outcome is vested in the hands of the adjudicator, who will be assisted by counsel. But the adjudicator’s assessment will turn on issues which are designated as having legal significance by the dictates of legal doctrine. These will often be narrow issues which may not correspond to the parties’ concerns when they entered into the transaction in the first place. When a dispute arises, the parties’ real interests usually concern finding a workable path forward, remedying the problems they have encountered, and maintaining and repairing working relationships. On the other hand, an adjudicative approach to dispute resolution, with its attention to scrutinising and allocating fault, places a heavy focus on the past, gives only secondary importance to the present, and pays very little, if any, attention to the future.

     B. Mediation's unique value proposition 

  10. The challenges I have outlined can seem almost insurmountable if we conceive of dispute resolution as being focused single-mindedly on a search for the truth between warring parties. But, as I have argued in the context of complexification, it is no longer feasible or desirable to assume that justice requires, in every case, a full and exhaustive determination of the facts or of the legal rights and wrongs.(13) First, this will not always even be possible to achieve in the kinds of hyper-complex disputes that we are beginning to see today. Second, the devotion of the required level of resources to this exercise in some disputes comes at the expense of other parts of the justice system, and potentially the ability of many others to access the justice system at all. It follows that this endeavour carries a broad societal cost that we need to keep very much in mind. Third, and most importantly, it is often not what the parties themselves really want, as I have just explained.

  11. We should therefore be careful not to equate dispute resolution with adjudication. Nor should we think that adjudication is the primary or default means of dispute resolution – something that the label “alternative dispute resolution”, which is typically applied to non-adjudicative modes such as mediation, tends to reinforce. Instead, we should recognise that dispute resolution comes in multiple co-equal forms each with its own role: both adjudicative approaches such as litigation and arbitration, and non-adjudicative and non-rights-based approaches, such as mediation.

  12. This would open the way for us to see mediation as an equally viable option for dispute resolution that offers a neat answer to many of the problems of the adjudicative approach. First, mediation has some clear advantages in terms of time and cost. The Singapore Mediation Centre (or “SMC”) reports that 90% of its successful mediations take no longer than 1 day.(14) One can immediately see the immense potential of mediation to alleviate access to justice concerns. Simply put, many disputants may be able to make use of mediation to address legal needs or challenges that would otherwise have gone unaddressed altogether because it was not possible, or not worthwhile, to expend the time and cost of going through an adjudicative process. Relatedly, mediation is much more accessible to lay litigants because the kinds of concerns that are ventilated in a mediation are precisely those that ordinary people think about in a dispute, without having to go through the alien and difficult task of trying to translate and frame those concerns in terms of legal issues and arguments. And even if the dispute is not ultimately settled after mediation, going through the process can often narrow the issues and lead to a much clearer focus on what really separates the parties, when they proceed to an adjudicative process.

  13. Second, mediation preserves the parties’ control over process and outcome, since the mediation process is driven by the concerns that the parties express to the mediator and to each other, and the outcome of the mediation is shaped by the parties themselves, albeit with the assistance of the mediator. As a result, mediation has proven to be highly effective. The SMC, for instance, has a success rate of 70%.(15) It bears mentioning that success in a mediation by definition involves a resolution that all the parties are reasonably satisfied with. This therefore goes beyond simply resolving the dispute at hand and also translates to a higher chance of compliance and of preserving the parties’ relationship.

  14. In Singapore, we have seen mediation’s versatility and success across all areas of dispute resolution. Besides the SMC, which provides a broad-based, generalist mediation service, we have used mediation in Singapore in a number of specialised areas.

  15. Family justice is a quintessential example of when mediation should very often be the first port of call. Although the spousal relationship will usually have broken down by the time the parties seek recourse from the family justice system, there will be a strong persistent interest in maintaining at least a functional relationship between them, to enable them to deal with the ancillary issues that invariably arise in the divorce, and this will continue well into the future in cases where the couple has children. It is therefore important to focus on the repairing of the relationship with an eye towards the future even as the couple seeks to separate from their unhappy past.(16) In addition, the process needs to be holistic, because the legal issues in family justice will invariably be undergirded by broader, non-legal issues.

  16. Mediation is the mode of dispute resolution that addresses all of these needs. Recognising this, the family justice system in Singapore has placed increasing emphasis on its use, especially where there are children involved. Thus, between 1996 and 2014, the law was progressively amended to require all divorcing couples with children under the age of 21 to undergo mandatory mediation or counselling,(17) and to empower family judges to order the parties to undergo mediation.(18)

  17. In recent years, we have sought to meet the need for a restorative, holistic and forward-looking approach to family justice by integrating all the aspects of our family justice system under the overarching philosophy that we know as therapeutic justice. When we apply therapeutic justice, problem-solving, rather than fault-finding, becomes the core focus and concern of the family justice system.(19) It therefore emphasises multidisciplinary approaches to family dispute resolution accompanied by the use of mediation and conciliation.

  18. It is not difficult to appreciate how a similar problem-solving approach could be useful in our efforts to resolve disputes within the wider community. In 1998, the Community Mediation Centre was set up to address this need.(20) Today, claims filed in our Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals may be referred to the Centre for compulsory mediation.(21) The same powers also apply to private prosecutions or Magistrate’s Complaints, which are often rooted in community disputes as well. (22) This harks back to the age-old practice in almost every civilisation of having elders mediate and resolve disputes – including, for instance, the panchayat system in rural India.

  19. Another area where the preservation of the parties’ relationships in the face of a dispute can be of great benefit is in employment disputes. In 2011, the Government, the trade unions and the employers’ federation(23) in Singapore set up the Tripartite Mediation Framework to assist with the resolution of employment disputes involving professionals, managers and executives.(24) The Employment Claims Tribunal was launched in 2017, and the parties to employment disputes are now required to undergo mandatory mediation at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (or “TADM”) before employment-related claims can be filed before the Tribunal.(25)

  20. Finally, we have also recognised that some types of commercial disputes can benefit from specialist mediation services. For instance, this can be especially true of construction disputes, which often emerge during the course of a project that will last for some time. In such a context, there will usually be a strong interest in preserving the relationship between the parties. Many construction disputes are complex and highly technical, and therefore may benefit from mediation by domain experts. To fill this need, the Singapore Construction Mediation Centre was set up in 2019 featuring a panel of mediators with construction expertise.(26)

      II. The dawn of a golden age 
  21. With all these advantages and a commendable track record of success across many domains of dispute resolution, it might seem surprising that mediation remains far less prevalent as a mode of dispute resolution today when compared to litigation and arbitration. In a 2019 survey of legal professionals conducted by the Singapore Academy of Law, only 5% of respondents cited mediation as their preferred means of resolving disputes.(27)

  22. As the respondents to the survey made clear, litigation and arbitration remain the predominant modes of dispute resolution principally because of concerns over enforceability. The long-held view was that even if a mediation proved successful, the parties might still have to resort to litigation to enforce the mediated settlement agreement if it was not subsequently complied with. In that sense, the parties could be back to square one, or worse – out of pocket twice, first for the cost of mediation and then of litigation.(28) This concern becomes heightened where the dispute is transnational in nature.(29)

  23. It may be somewhat surprising to some of us that a similar concern once existed in the context of international commercial arbitration, but that has long been eliminated with the nearly universal adoption of the New York Convention, which has enabled the simple and effective enforcement of arbitral awards across borders.(30) Meanwhile, when it comes to international commercial litigation, foreign judgments can be enforced relatively easily under the domestic laws of most jurisdictions,(31) and efforts to supplement this through the harmonisation of laws internationally are well under way.(32)

  24. It is for this reason that the Singapore Convention on Mediation(33) has been described as “the missing third piece” in the framework for international dispute resolution.(34) Modelled after the New York Convention, the Singapore Convention shares the brevity and clarity of its approach. It applies to settlement agreements that result from the mediation of commercial disputes, and which are international in nature with reference to the places of business of the parties or the nature of the settlement agreement.(35)

  25. Article 3 sets out the primary obligation under the Convention, which requires states parties to enforce such settlement agreements. Like the New York Convention, the Singapore Convention sets out in Art 5 an exclusive and limited set of grounds for the refusal of enforcement, thereby setting a ceiling on the scope for challenges against a settlement agreement.(36) These include grounds familiar from the New York Convention, such as the incapacity of one of the parties, the nullity or inoperability of the settlement agreement, and concerns based on the public policy of the state where enforcement is sought. In addition, there are very limited grounds for challenges based on the way the mediation was conducted: notably, where there has been a “serious breach” by the mediator of standards applicable to the mediator or the mediation, but for which the resisting party would not have entered into the settlement agreement.(37)

  26. It is clear that there was considerable appetite for the development of such an instrument to meet the needs of the international commercial community. The UNCITRAL Working Group was able to complete its work on the Singapore Convention within a short span of three years,(38) and on 7 August 2019, the day the Convention opened for signature, 46 countries, including the United States, China and India, signed the Convention. This was among the highest number of first-day signatories of any UN trade convention.(39) The Convention entered into force just a year later, on 12 September 2020.

  27. After Singapore signed the Convention, our Parliament promptly passed the Singapore Convention on Mediation Act 2020 in preparation for our ratification of the Convention. In a reflection of its ease of implementation, the Convention is given effect in the Act either by direct reference to the provisions of the Convention,(40) or by substantially replicating its provisions.(41) A short set of procedural rules were also enacted to provide the mechanism for applications to be made to the General Division of the High Court to record an international settlement agreement as an order of court for the purposes of its recognition and enforcement in Singapore.(42)

  28. The adoption of the Singapore Convention also goes a long way towards tackling a related obstacle standing in the way of the more widespread adoption of mediation, and that is the question of its legitimacy. This stemmed from perceptions of the level of practical difficulties that would be encountered in mediation. The UNCITRAL Working Group on the Singapore Convention was told that mediation lacked the “stamp of international legitimacy” that had been afforded to international commercial arbitration by the New York Convention, and this was one of the reasons commercial parties found it difficult to convince their business partners to engage in mediation.(43) By directly addressing the real and perceived challenges of enforcing mediated settlements, the Singapore Convention showcases the legitimacy of international commercial mediation, and this in turn is likely to have a halo effect in securing the legitimacy of mediation as a form of dispute resolution in general, because the practices and attitudes of commercial actors on the transnational plane will inevitably spill over to their domestic dealings.   

       III. What lies ahead 


  29. With the coming into force of the Singapore Convention, I believe we are now witnessing the dawn of mediation’s golden age. I would like to come to the close of my address by offering three suggestions for ushering in this golden age, starting from the specific and moving towards the transnational system of commercial dispute resolution as a whole.

  30. First, and most simply, we should raise awareness of the immense importance of the Singapore Convention and encourage its adoption by states and its use by commercial parties. At present, the Convention has 55 signatories and 11 states parties.(44) We therefore have some way to go, as we aspire towards a universal enforcement mechanism for international commercial mediation, similar to that which international commercial arbitration enjoys today. This process will naturally take some time. After all, the New York Convention has had a 60-year head start. But the Singapore Convention has already generated considerable momentum, as seen in the fact that just this past month, the UK government committed to signing and ratifying the Singapore Convention, following consultations held in 2019 and 2022..(45)

  31. Second, we should pursue excellence in the practice of mediation. This would boost the reputation and legitimacy that mediation enjoys. To do this, we must strive to professionalise the practice of mediation and promote the development and recognition of standards for the training and accreditation of mediators.

  32. This should start from the very early stages of professional training for lawyers so that new practitioners are socialised to the importance of mediation. In Singapore, we offer a module on mediation as part of the bar course. With the implementation of a new syllabus starting from 2024, we expect to make an introduction to mediation and mediation advocacy a part of the compulsory “Dispute Resolution Practice” module. This will expose young lawyers to mediation from the very beginning of their legal practice, so that they will come to see it as a natural, indeed necessary part of the suite of dispute resolution options.

  33. In time to come, we can expect all Singapore lawyers to be acquainted with the value proposition of mediation and how it works. But for legal professionals who want to practice mediation as a mainstay of their work, further training and accreditation should be provided. Mediation calls on different skills from litigation and arbitration: whereas a judge can take up the role of an arbitrator with relative ease, and advocates apply similar skills in litigation and arbitration, the same cannot be said of mediation. It is for this reason that we saw the need to entrust the setting of standards and the provision of accreditation for mediators to a professional body. Today, that role is fulfilled by the Singapore International Mediation Institute (or “SIMI”). SIMI features a tiered accreditation structure, and systematically takes into account user feedback as a requirement for progression to higher tiers.(46) Members of the highest tier, known as SIMI Certified Mediators, can apply for cross-certification with the International Mediation Institute, which is an internationally recognised standards body.

  34. Third, we should also enhance collaboration between judges, arbitrators and mediators. This is because commercial dispute resolution today should not be compartmentalised into these different modes. Instead, litigation, arbitration and mediation should come to be seen and understood as key components of the system of international commercial dispute resolution, with disputes flowing between them as the need arises.(47) Collaboration and exchange within this ecosystem will therefore be essential for the effective resolution of disputes, and this can arise in a number of levels.

  35. First, the judiciary’s support for and understanding of mediation will be essential, because judges can play a highly beneficial role if they were to divert appropriate cases towards mediation.(48) A good example of this comes from the field of insolvency and restructuring.(49) In complex insolvencies where there are multiple claims of a similar nature, it will often be viable and beneficial to engage in what is known as “similar claims mediation”. That was the experience of Judge James Peck, who presided over the insolvency of Lehman Brothers.(50) He recounted that the multitude of claims would have been “overwhelming and well beyond the capacity of any single judge” had it not been for the mediation protocol he adopted, which yielded settlements worth billions of dollars. Similarly, in cases involving the development of a restructuring plan, the use of “plan mediation” might allow the reaching of a consensus in otherwise intractable proceedings. A judge who is astute about such opportunities can encourage the parties to explore these options in appropriate cases.(51)

  36. Second, commercial courts will have a responsibility for setting and enforcing standards in international commercial mediation, especially since Art 5 of the Singapore Convention, as I have mentioned, allows parties to seek the ruling of the courts as to whether there has been a serious breach of standards by the mediator.(52) Judges will not be in a position to articulate and rule on such standards without considerable familiarity with the practice of mediation. Furthermore, under the Singapore Convention, there is no notion of the seat of the mediation, unlike the concept of the seat of the arbitration.(53) The jurisdiction where a mediation takes place therefore need not be the natural port of call for such challenges. Instead, they will be raised in whichever jurisdiction the settlement is sought to be enforced. Commercial courts must therefore be prepared to deal with challenges that concern the standards applicable to a mediation or mediator acting anywhere in the world. This clearly points to the need for judges to be aware of the nuances of mediation practice and standards.

  37. Third, the advent of integrated dispute resolution models, such as multi-tier dispute resolution clauses and dispute boards, creates a further opportunity for synergy between adjudicators and mediators. Under such models, various techniques based on mediation are used either to dispose of disputes or to downsize and contain them so that what goes for adjudication is refined and limited. Each adjudicator or mediator presiding over a stage of the dispute holds only a piece of the puzzle, and they will need to be distinctly aware of how their roles fit together in the management of the dispute or the project as a whole.
     
     IV. Conclusion

  38. Let me conclude by taking a step back to see where we stand today. Commercial litigation in its modern form is the product of centuries of evolution and experience, while the dramatic rise of international commercial arbitration has taken place over the past half-century or more. Our goal, I suggest, should be to bring mediation to a similar, if not higher, level of prevalence as these adjudicative modes of dispute resolution, and to secure for mediation the reputation and legitimacy that the leading commercial courts and arbitration institutions enjoy today. This may seem like a daunting task, but in today’s world, where the drawbacks of adjudication are difficult to ignore and the benefits of mediation are becoming increasingly obvious, I believe mediation will require a much shorter runway to accomplish this aim.

  39. An important reason we should have confidence in this endeavour is the Singapore Convention, which institutionalises the important role of mediation. With its current trajectory, its widespread adoption may be achievable within the span of years rather than decades. I suggest, therefore, that the path forward is clear. If we vigorously promote the Singapore Convention, champion excellence in the practice of mediation, and encourage collaboration across the different components of the transnational system of commercial dispute resolution, I believe the dawn we are now witnessing will mark the beginning of a golden age of mediation. This, in turn, promises a brighter future for us all by promoting better outcomes in the resolution of disputes, greater confidence in doing business across borders, and enhanced access to justice.

  40. Thank you very much.



*I am deeply grateful to my colleagues, Assistant Registrars Huang Jiahui, Tan Ee Kuan and Wee Yen Jean, for all their assistance in the research for and preparation of this address.

(1) See Sundaresh Menon, “Building Sustainable Mediation Programmes: A Singapore Perspective”, speech at the Asia-Pacific International Mediation Summit (14 February 2015), at https://sidra.smu.edu.sg/sites/sidra.smu.edu.sg/files/documents/asia-pacific-international-mediation-summit---speech-by-cj.pdf (“Building Sustainable Mediation Programmes”) at paras 2–3.

(2) See, generally, Sundaresh Menon, “Dispute Resolution at the Intersection of Domestic and Transnational Justice Systems: The Case for International Commercial Courts”, keynote address at the 7th International Bar Association Asia Pacific Regional Forum Biennial Conference (23 February 2023) at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/news-and-resources/news/news-details/chief-justice-sundaresh-menon-7th-international-bar-association-asia-pacific-regional-forum-biennial-conference.

(3) John B Henry, “Fortune 500: The Total Cost Of Litigation Estimated At One-Third Profits”, Corporate Counsel Business Journal (1 February 2008) at https://ccbjournal.com/articles/fortune-500-total-cost-litigation-estimated-one-third-profits.

(4) See Joseph R Profaizer, Igor V Timofeyev and Adam J Weiss, “Costs”, Global Arbitration Review (19 December 2022) at https://globalarbitrationreview.com/guide/the-guide-damages-in-international-arbitration/5th-edition/article/costs.

(5) “2018 International Arbitration Survey: The Evolution of International Arbitration” at https://arbitration.qmul.ac.uk/media/arbitration/docs/2018-International-Arbitration-Survey---The-Evolution-of-International-Arbitration-(2).PDF, at pp 5 and 8, reporting that this trend continued from the 2015 survey.

(6) Sundaresh Menon, “The Complexification of Disputes in the Digital Age”, Goff Lecture 2021 (9 November 2021) at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/news-and-resources/news/news-details/chief-justice-sundaresh-menon-26th-goff-lecture-2021 (“The Complexification of Disputes”).

(7) See “The Complexification of Disputes” at paras 8–14.

(8) See “The Complexification of Disputes” at paras 17–20.

(9) See “The Complexification of Disputes” at paras 26–34.

(10) See Jörg Risse, “An inconvenient truth: the complexity problem and limits to justice” (2019) Arbitration International 291 at 293.

(11) Michael John Mustill, “Arbitration: History and Background” (1989) 6 Journal of International Arbitration 43 at 56.

(12) See Sundaresh Menon, “Dispelling due process paranoia: Fairness, efficiency and the rule of law”, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Australia Annual Lecture 2020 (13 October 2020) at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/news-and-resources/news/news-details/chief-justice-sundaresh-menon-chartered-institute-of-arbitrators-(ciarb)-australia-annual-lecture-2020 at paras 4–5.
 
(13) “The Complexification of Disputes” at para 43.

(14) See https://www.mediation.com.sg/about-us/about-smc/

(15) See https://www.mediation.com.sg/about-us/about-smc/

(16) See Sundaresh Menon, “From Family Law to Family Justice”, keynote address at the Law Society Family Conference 2020 (14 September 2020), at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/docs/default-source/news-docs/chief-justice-sundaresh-menon's-keynote-address_family-conference-2020.pdf at para 33.

(17) See Women’s Charter (Amendment) Act 2011, s 5 read with the Women’s Charter (Mediation and Counselling) (Prescribed Persons) Rules 2011; see, at present, s 139I of the Women’s Charter 1961.

(18) See Women’s Charter (Amendment) Act 1996, ss 11 and 20 (power to refer parties to mediation in relation to issues of maintenance or the custody of a child); s 26(9) of the Family Justice Act 2014 (power to order mediation of the court’s own motion).

(19) See Justice Debbie Ong, “Today is a New Day”, speech at the Family Justice Courts Workplan 2020 (21 May 2020), at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/news-and-resources/news/news-details/justice-debbie-ong-speech-delivered-at-the-family-justice-courts-workplan-2020 at para 42.

(20) See “Building Sustainable Mediation Programmes” at paras 24–28.

(21) See s 30 of the Community Disputes Resolution Act 2015.

(22) See s 15 of the Community Mediation Centres Act 1997.

(23) The Ministry of Manpower, the National Trade Unions Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation respectively.

(24) See “Building Sustainable Mediation Programmes” at para 33.

(25) See s 3(1) of the Employment Claims Act 2016.

(26) See Shabana Begum, “New mediation centre to resolve disputes in construction sector launched” (The Straits Times, 12 March 2019).

(27) “2019 Study on Governing Law & Jurisdictional Choices in Cross-Border Transactions at https://www.sal.org.sg/sites/default/files/PDF%20Files/Newsroom/News_Release_PSL%20Survey_2019_Appendix_A.pdf at p 3.

(28) See Timothy Schnabel, “The Singapore Convention on Mediation: A Framework for the Cross-Border Recognition and Enforcement of Mediated Settlements” (2019) 19 Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal 1 (“Schnabel”) at 2–4.

(29) See Schnabel at fn 8, referring to evidence presented to UNCITRAL by the American Society of International Law.

(30) United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (20 December 2018, entered into force on 12 September 2020) (“the Singapore Convention”).

(31) Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (10 June 1958, entered into force on 7 June 1959). With the accession of Timor Leste in January 2023, it now has 172 states parties.

(32) See “SIFoCC Multilateral Memorandum on Enforcement of Commercial Judgments for Money” (SIFoCC, revised 2nd edn, 2021) at https://sifocc.org/2021/04/21/sifocc-multilateral-memorandum-on-enforcement-now-with-international-working-group-commentary/, especially at p 15, para 33(21).

(33) The Convention on Choice of Court Agreements (30 June 2005, entered into force on 1 October 2015) (“the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements”), which has 32 states parties at present, provides a regime for the enforcement of judgments arising from contracts with an exclusive choice of court agreement. The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (2 July 2019), which is not yet in force, aims to do the same for civil judgments in general.

(34) Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (3 February 2020) vol 94 (Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai, Senior Minister of State for Law) (“3 February 2020 Hansard”).

(35) Art 1 of the Singapore Convention. Specifically, a settlement agreement is international where (a) at least two parties to the agreement have their places of business in different states, or (b) the parties’ places of business is in a different state from the state in which a substantial part of the obligations under the settlement agreement is performed, or the state with which the subject matter of the settlement agreement is most closely connected.

(36) See Sundaresh Menon, “The Singapore Convention on Mediation & the Coming of a New Age”, speech at the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam Workshop on Mediation (17 September 2019), at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/news-and-resources/news/news-details/chief-justice-sundaresh-menon-speech-delivered-at-the-supreme-people-s-court-of-vietnam-workshop-on-mediation-2019 at para 36.

(37) Art 5(1)(e).

(38) See the 3 February 2020 Hansard, and Schnabel at p 5.

(39) See the 3 February 2020 Hansard.

(40) See s 3 of the Singapore Convention on Mediation Act 2020, which refers to the Convention for the definition of a settlement agreement that falls within its scope.

(41) See ss 6–7 of the Singapore Convention on Mediation Act 2020, which substantially replicate Arts 4–5 of the Convention.

(42)The Supreme Court of Judicature (Singapore Convention on Mediation) Rules 2020

(43) See Schnabel at p 3.

(44)With the ratification of Uruguay on 28 March 2023: see https://uncitral
.un.org/en/texts/mediation/conventions/international_settlement_agreements/status.

(45)“Government response to the Consultation on the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (New York, 2018)” (UK Ministry of Justice, 2 March 2023). The response concluded that it was the right time for the UK to become a party to the Singapore Convention “as a clear signal to our international partners that the UK is committed to maintaining and strengthening its position as a centre for dispute resolution and to promote the UK’s flourishing legal and mediation sectors” (at para 6.1). In a further encouraging sign, the response indicated that “[t]he UK will champion the Convention internationally to encourage further ratifications” (at para 6.14).

(47) See Sundaresh Menon, “SIFoCC playing its part as a cornerstone of a transnational system of commercial justice”, keynote address at the 4th Full Meeting of the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (20 October 2022) at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/news-and-resources/news/news-details/chief-justice-sundaresh-menon-keynote-address-delivered-at-the-standing-international-forum-of-commercial-courts-2022 at para 18.

(48) See Singapore’s Rules of Court 2021 at Order 5, rule 3. Under r 3(1), the court has the power to order the parties to attempt amicable resolution. Under r 3(2), in deciding whether to exercise this power, the court must have regard to all the relevant circumstances.

(49) For an overview of the different forms of mediation that can be applied in insolvency proceedings, see “Report of the Committee to Strengthen Singapore as an International Centre for Debt Restructuring” (Ministry of Law, 20 April 2016) at para 3.54.

(50) See James M Peck, “Plan Mediation as an Effective Restructuring Tool” (Speech at the Singapore Academy of Law, 1 April 2019). For more on different forms of mediation that can be applied in insolvency proceedings, see “Report of the Committee to Strengthen Singapore as an International Centre for Debt Restructuring” (Ministry of Law, 20 April 2016) at para 3.54.

(51)See the comments of Kannan Ramesh J (as he then was) in Re IM Skaugen SE and other matters [2019] 3 SLR 979 at [94].

(52) Art 5(1)(e) of the Singapore Convention.

(53) There is therefore no concept in the Singapore Convention of “setting aside” a settlement agreement, and challenges under the Singapore Convention are limited to challenges against enforcement: see, in this regard, Shou Yu Chong and Nadja Alexander, “Singapore Convention Series: Why is there no ‘seat’ of mediation?” (Kluwer Mediation Blog, 1 February 2019) at https://mediationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2019/02/01/singapore-convention-series-why-is-there-no-seat-of-mediation/.

This does not mean, however, that there would therefore be a likelihood of multiple inconsistent findings in proceedings involving the enforcement of a settlement agreement in multiple jurisdictions. Instead, the doctrine of issue estoppel can apply to such proceedings just as it does in the context of arbitral awards: see Sundaresh Menon, “The Role of the National Courts of the Seat in International Arbitration”, Keynote address at the 10th Annual International Conference of the Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Centre (17 February 2018) at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/news-and-resources/news/news-details/chief-justice-sundaresh-menon-keynote-address-delivered-at-the-10th-annual-international-conference-of-the-nani-palkhivala-arbitration-centre-2018-the-role-of-the-national-courts-of-the-seat-in-international-arbitration at paras 22–24.

 

 

2023/04/19

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