Remarks by DS Calvin Phua at the Consultative Workshop on Singapore Convention on Mediation on 6 August 2020
6 Aug 2020 Posted in Speeches
His Excellency Sok Sopheak
Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia
Ladies and Gentlemen
- I am pleased that we are able to come together today across borders, during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
- It is heartening that Cambodia is holding this national workshop to discuss the Singapore Convention on Mediation, with a view to joining it.
- At this workshop, my colleagues will share about the provisions of the Convention and its benefits, and exchange views on the Convention. I hope this will be useful to the participants.
- Let me say a few words about the Singapore Convention on Mediation.
- The Convention provides an effective, efficient and harmonised framework to enforce and invoke cross-border commercial mediated settlement agreements.
- In a wide show of support for the Convention and multilateralism, the international community attended the Singapore Convention Signing Ceremony and Conference on 7 August 2019, 70 countries from around the world were represented by Ministers and senior officials. From Cambodia, the delegation was led by H.E. Chiv Songhak, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Justice.
- The Singapore Convention attained the highest number of first-day signatories for any United Nations trade convention. To-date, the Singapore Convention has 53 signatories and 5 parties, and will enter into force on 12 September 2020. This signifies recognition by the international community of the benefits of the Convention.
III. Mediation in Commercial Disputes
- The role of mediation in settling cross-border commercial disputes is growing, as businesses and legal practitioners come to recognise the benefits of mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism. While mediation has clear advantages, it has limited utility if parties are not assured that mediated settlement agreements may be enforced.
- This is why the entry-into-force of the Convention is significant.
IV. Benefits of the Singapore Convention on Mediation
- The Singapore Convention has much to offer. It is a game-changer in the development of international commercial mediation, a milestone for international commerce, and a powerful statement in support of multilateralism.
- The Singapore Convention is the missing third piece, that completes the international dispute resolution enforcement framework. It joins instruments such as the New York Convention for arbitration and the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements for litigation. With the Singapore Convention, mediation can now stand effectively on its own, while complementing other forms of dispute resolution.
- It addresses what had historically been a key obstacle to the growth and adoption of mediation globally – the absence of an effective means to enforce cross-border commercial mediated settlement agreements.
- Among the international business community, there had long been calls for such a framework, because companies find it hard to convince their business partners in some jurisdictions to engage in cross-border mediation due to the lack of enforceability. There was also a perception that if a company successfully mediates a dispute, but the other party fails to comply, the company is worse off than if it had not attempted mediation, because it would still have to litigate the issue of non-compliance.
- By providing an effective, efficient and harmonised international framework for the enforcement of cross-border commercial mediated settlement agreements, the Singapore Convention strengthens the legitimacy of and confidence in mediation outcomes for businesses to maximise the benefits of mediation.
- Businesses will have greater assurance that mediation can be relied on to settle cross-border commercial disputes.
- This will facilitate the growth of international commerce.
- The strong international support for the Convention, including the growing number of signatories and parties, suggests that many countries share this view.
- There is strong momentum, and we are confident that more countries will come on-board in the near future.
V. Importance of Mediation in the COVID-19 Climate
- The entry-into-force of the Singapore Convention on 12 September 2020 is particularly timely, in the current climate.
- The global landscape today is in many ways different from what it was during the last workshop because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- There has been significant impact on businesses and commercial dispute resolution.
- We see businesses facing unprecedented levels of instability and uncertainty caused by weakened financial markets, disruption to supply chains, workplace operations and business pipelines.
- In the short term, we expect an increase in the number of parties who find themselves unable to comply with existing contractual obligations, resulting in a spike in commercial disputes.
- Many companies, which are in economic difficulty and facing cash flow issues, do not have the capacity to engage in protracted legal proceedings.
- Mediation plays an especially important and relevant role during this period, because it offers businesses a cost and time effective alternative for dispute resolution, with the added benefit of preserving business relationships.
VI. Singapore’s Commitment to the Convention
- On the bilateral and international fronts, we have been pleased to participate in exchanges, share about the Singapore Convention, and promote the benefits and use of the Convention.
- This is in line with Singapore’s long-term commitment to promote the Singapore Convention and encourage its adoption.
- Within Singapore, we have taken a multi-pronged approach, collaborating with our mediation institutions - such as the Singapore International Mediation Centre, the Judiciary, the legal profession, and universities – with the aim of building a strong dispute resolution ecosystem.
- We are heartened by the interest Cambodia has shown in mediation and the Singapore Convention.
- In March 2019, my colleagues from the Ministry of Law and the Singapore International Mediation Centre conducted a 2-day capacity-building training programme on international commercial mediation at the Cambodia-Singapore Cooperation Centre, in Phnom Penh.
- It was a fruitful and insightful exchange for both sides, and we had the opportunity to learn more about the mediation landscape in Cambodia.
- Today, we are pleased to build on the last workshop, to share more on the Singapore Convention.
- Cambodia is a longstanding friend of Singapore. The economic relationship between Cambodia and Singapore remains strong, despite the global slowdown of economic activities this year.
- We look forward to furthering our strong relations, and to the active participation and exchange at this workshop. I understand that following this workshop, you will be moving into internal discussions on the Singapore Convention. I wish you a fruitful and productive session.
- My colleagues and I will be happy to provide any further support or engage further on the Singapore Convention after today’s session, if this would be helpful for your discussions.
- We hope to welcome Cambodia onboard as a signatory to the Singapore Convention soon.
Last updated on 6 Aug 2020