- The Singapore Convention Week (SC Week) 2022 successfully drew to a close on 2 September 2022. Over 5 days, from 29 August to 2 September 2022, SC Week 2022 feature a series of legal and dispute resolution-related events organised by the Singapore Ministry of Law (MinLaw), in collaboration with 21 partner organisations. SC Week 2022 brought together over 4,000 participants from Singapore and more than 100 countries, representing the legal, business and government sectors.
Key Highlights & Insights from UNCITRAL Academy
- A key highlight was the second edition of the UNCITRAL Academy, comprising the UNCITRAL Academy Conference and Capacity-Building Workshops. Jointly organised by MinLaw and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the UNCITRAL Academy was held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore over three days, from 30 August to 1 September 2022.
- With its theme, 'Embracing Global Change, Navigating New Possibilities', discussions at the UNCITRAL Academy centred on current trends and challenges in cross-border dispute resolution amid the quick-changing global landscape, as well as breakthroughs in dispute resolution practice.
- In his welcome address at the opening of the UNCITRAL Academy, Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam SC elaborated on the global challenges brought about by COVID-19 and geopolitical tensions, which affected economies, businesses, and individuals deeply. Against this backdrop, he encouraged countries to come together to keep the global trading environment healthy. At the same time, he emphasised the importance of upholding rules-based multilateralism, highlighting the Singapore Convention on Mediation (SCM) as an example of providing businesses with greater assurance of enforcing cross-border mediated settlement agreements.
- Speakers and panellists shared the following key insights:
- a. Singapore's Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong SC shared Singapore's journey to becoming a leading centre for international commercial dispute resolution in a fireside chat during the UNCITRAL Academy Conference. He expressed optimism about growing opportunities for young practitioners in Asia as new areas and opportunities emerge in this region. He added that Singapore will continue to look for ways to maintain the high standards of the legal industry, and ensure that it remains adaptable and responsive to the economic and technological changes ahead.
- b. On the topic of dispute resolution in a digital economy, panellists noted that with greater use of technology in dispute resolution proceedings, confidentiality and cybersecurity issues have emerged. They shared their views on the need to raise the technology competence and subject matter expertise of practitioners, for instance, in new technologies such as cryptocurrency, and explored innovations that could make dispute resolution more efficient.
- c. On Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) reforms, panellists discussed reforms to the ISDS system, with perspectives from the Asia-Pacific region. Among the options being developed in UNCITRAL Working Group III, mediation emerged as a key reform option, with panellists discussing how it could play an even greater role in the context of ISDS reforms. The new ICSID Mediation Rules 2022, established by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), were also discussed.
- At the ISDS capacity-building workshop supported by the Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy (SIDRA) and ICSID, panellists explored recent developments in Investor-State mediation, and also took a deep dive into the practical considerations surrounding such meditation, through a multi-stakeholder perspective.
- d. On mediation as a form of dispute resolution mechanism, the Industry capacity-building workshop, supported by the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC), provided participants an opportunity to hear views on common user concerns, including time and potential costs incurred by mediation, and confidentiality and principles when drafting settlement agreements to avoid enforceability issues. New trends and innovative solutions were also discussed as speakers shared their experiences in resolving complex situations in financial, insolvency, high-tech, construction and shareholder disputes. Valuable insights and views on the latest progression of arbitration and mediation were exchanged, including how dispute resolution now takes on a customised approach in catering to the diverse needs and priorities of different industries and jurisdictions.
- e. The Government capacity-building workshop, supported by SIDRA, featured a panel of speakers who shared their experiences in their respective jurisdictions in signing and ratifying the SCM. Participants also exchanged views on topics such as mediator standards, rules of procedure in the enforcement of international mediated settlement agreements and relief under the SCM.
- f. Dispute settlement and climate change were also featured, with panellists providing their observations on how climate change has raised new and increased legal risks, resulting in a rise in disputes. The diverse panel noted how climate change disputes differ from others, and offered perspectives from Africa, Europe, India, Singapore and the United Kingdom. There was convergence in views that while the ecosystem of climate change is still nascent, there are opportunities for lawyers and mediators to capture work in this area by developing knowledge of domestic and international environmental rules.
Updates on the Singapore Convention on Mediation
- The SCM, which entered into force on 12 September 2020, offers a simplified and streamlined procedure to enforce or invoke international mediated settlement agreements. It also serves as an essential instrument in the facilitation of international trade and in the promotion of mediation as an additional and effective dispute resolution option to litigation and arbitration in settling cross-border disputes. To date, there are 10 parties to the SCM – Singapore, Fiji, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Ecuador, Honduras, Turkey, Georgia and Kazakhstan, and 55 signatories.
- The second edition of the Singapore Convention on Mediation Commentary Book by SIDRA was also launched during the UNCITRAL Academy Conference by Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Singapore's Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law.
Key Takeaways from SC Week 2022 Attendees
- Attendees of the SC Week 2022 shared their key takeaways:
- a. Mr Shreyas Jayasimha, Co-Founder of Aarna Law (India) and Simha Law (Singapore), a speaker at the UNCITRAL Academy Conference, said: "This year's SC Week has been a refreshing gathering of practitioners and experts from all over the world post-COVID. It has been an amazing interaction and the choice of curated topics is excellent. As a practitioner of mediation, I am very grateful to Singapore – for not only lending its name, but organising events like this, such that the mediation practitioners can come together and grow. This kind of support is critical."
- b. Mr Ng Jern-Fei QC, Barrister at 7BR (London, UK) and Arbitrator at Temple Chambers (Hong Kong, China), who participated as the lead facilitator of the Reimagine, Rethink, Remake International Commercial Dispute Resolution event on 31 August, said: "The SC Week 2022 is a celebration of the progress that Singapore has achieved in the dispute resolution sector – from when the Singapore International Arbitration Centre was first established, to its milestone achievement which is the Singapore Convention on Mediation. It is also a useful forum for thought leaders in our sector to assemble and chart new trends, and to discuss possible areas of reform and dispute resolution, for example, investor-state dispute settlement and initiatives that could be deployed to promote sustainability, diversity, and a greener arbitration."
- c. Ms Alison Ross, Editor-at-Large and Chief Correspondent of Global Arbitration Review, who moderated the fireside chat with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Mr Edwin Tong SC, said: "Interesting content, an impressive line-up of speakers, very enjoyable social events in spectacular settings with wonderful views of Singapore, and a lot of attention to detail."
- The SC Week continues to play a pivotal role in bringing together thought leaders in the dispute resolution field, to share insights and best practices amidst a changing operating landscape. Videos of the SC Week 2022 highlights, events and panel discussions are available at https://www.singaporeconventionweek.sg/.