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Global Experts Connect at Singapore Convention Week
01 OCT 2021
Global Experts Connect at Singapore Convention Week
Insight MinLaw goes behind the scenes to uncover stories about how the work we do impacts you.
New perspectives and ideas on dispute resolution from across the globe intersected at the Singapore Convention Week 2021 (SC Week). The week-long series of events, including the inaugural UNCITRAL Academy, was held from 6 to 10 September.
The first-ever hybrid edition of SC Week drew over 4,000 participants from some 100 countries, and was organised by MinLaw in collaboration with 15 supporting partner organisations. The partner events added to the rich discussions at SC Week, and delved into related topics of discussion such as the role of expert witnesses, developments in international commercial litigation, mediation and arbitration, hybrid dispute resolution mechanisms, online dispute resolution, and dispute resolution of inter-state disputes.
Inaugural UNCITRAL Academy
UNCITRAL Academy participants attended the conference via the Virtual Platform
At the heart of the SC Week was the inaugural UNCITRAL Academy, jointly organised by MinLaw and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Themed ‘A World in Transition’, the two-day showcase comprised fireside chats, panel discussions and capacity-building workshops which featured over 80 global experts from the private and public sectors.
About 1,500 speakers and participants from around 90 countries attended the UNCITRAL Academy, which was held on a custom-built Virtual Platform with attendee networking and video-on-demand functions.
Impact of COVID-19
The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was front and centre in almost all the discussions at UNCITRAL Academy.
In a keynote speech on 7 September, delivered in front of a ballroom of Singapore-based attendees, Mr K Shanmugam SC, Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, highlighted the greater need for robust dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation, amid COVID-19 and increasing global uncertainty and unpredictability.
He said: “COVID-19 has showed us how quickly disputes can occur and how unexpected circumstances can lead to disputes. The assumptions made by businesses before COVID-19 have changed completely. With businesses facing difficulties and an uncertain future, mediation becomes extremely important. The Singapore Convention on Mediation takes on far greater importance in this context.”
The Singapore Convention on Mediation (the “Singapore Convention” or “Convention”), which entered into force on 12 September 2020, counts 55 signatories and seven Parties to-date. It is a multilateral treaty which offers a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement and invocation of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation. It applies to international settlement agreements resulting from mediation, concluded by parties to resolve a commercial dispute. Find out more here.
Speakers at the UNCITRAL Academy discussed how the Convention provides an effective avenue for parties to enforce mediated settlement agreements for cross-border disputes, as well as the benefits of mediation, which can help businesses settle disputes quickly, amicably and cost-effectively.
At the opening dialogue, Mr Edwin Tong SC, Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, said: “The more countries have signed and ratified the Convention, the more accessible mediation will be, especially cross-border mediation.”
Ms Anna Joubin-Bret, Secretary of UNCITRAL, echoed similar sentiments, explaining that a variety of capacity-building workshops had been organised to provide States with insights into the actual implementation of the Singapore Convention on Mediation and to facilitate the cross-fertilisation of ideas and knowledge.
Mr Cameron Ford, Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, who attended UNCITRAL Academy, noted: “With the passing of the Singapore Convention, and the emphasis and the attention that’s being paid to mediation, I really think now we’re entering an age of a golden opportunity for mediation.”
Esteemed speakers at UNCITRAL Academy held lively discussions and exchanged views on the latest developments in the international dispute resolution scene. Some of the speakers include thought leaders and experts such as Professor Richard Susskind OBE, Technology Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Colin Rule, President and CEO, Mediate.com and Arbitrate.com, and Mark Beer OBE, Chairman of The Metis Institute.
The speakers explored how the pandemic has accelerated underlying structural shifts, from climate change to geopolitics, and how businesses and dispute resolution must evolve in response. Technology and innovation are necessary for companies to pick up new business models, anticipate potential disputes, and survive in the new normal.
They also highlighted how legal technology can improve access to justice and accuracy of outcomes, while reducing costs. In ‘A World in Transition’ – this year’s theme – countries such as Singapore, which dedicate resources to developing legal technology such as Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) systems, will be best positioned to harness the benefits of such technology whilst helping their local legal communities adapt.
Ms Koh Swee Yen Partner, Commercial & Corporate Disputes and International Arbitration Practices, WongPartnership LLP, said that she found her time at UNCITRAL Academy to be an engaging and enriching experience. As a panellist at the Opening Panel Discussion, she had the chance to discuss with business leaders the challenges they face today. “We spoke about digital acceleration, challenges of climate change and the importance of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance),” she said. “From my perspective as a lawyer, it is very important to appreciate these business challenges and see how the law responds to it,” she added.
Workshops and Roundtable
Hybrid capacity-building workshops at the UNCITRAL Academy
MinLaw and UNCITRAL partnered with the Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy (SIDRA), the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC), and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) to hold a series of capacity-building workshops for representatives from governments and the industry (including general counsel and executives).
The workshops introduced participants to topics such as using mediation and its benefits as a dispute resolution tool, the Convention and its mechanics, how States can build a framework and ecosystem to facilitate and encourage mediation and the use of mediation to resolve investor-State disputes. An exchange session between industry and government representatives offered both groups a platform to engage in discussions on the benefits of using mediation as a dispute resolution tool and how the ecosystem can encourage its use.
Roundtable with Minister Edwin Tong SC
As part of SC Week, Minister Tong also hosted a roundtable with 23 young international dispute resolution practitioners from 18 jurisdictions. They had an engaging dialogue on how the pandemic had impacted them, what could be improved on, and how they could work together.
“The Singapore Convention Week has put into focus how we should look ahead on certain trends that will come about as a result of technology, COVID-19 and more countries signing on to the Convention,” said Mr Wan Kwong Weng, Group Chief Corporate Officer at Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd and Vice President at Singapore Corporate Counsel Association, who attended the UNCITRAL Academy events.
Indeed, SC Week has provided a platform for an exchange of rich insights on international dispute resolution. As part of its longstanding commitment to promote the development, understanding and use of international dispute resolution, Singapore will continue to facilitate such discussions and looks forward to welcoming the international community at the next edition of SC Week, which will include the UNCITRAL Academy 2022 and will be held from 29 August to 2 September 2022.
A recap of highlights, speakers and events from SC Week 2021 can be found here.
You may register your interest for SC Week 2022 at this link.