Officially launched in November 2014, the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) offers world-class mediation services for international commercial disputes.
Described as the “third jewel in the crown” of Singapore’s legal services landscape alongside international arbitration and international litigation, mediation is a voluntary, confidential, flexible and cost-effective dispute resolution process. Parties are guided by a neutral third party, the mediator, who facilitates discussions between parties in order to arrive at a solution which is within the control of, and acceptable to, all parties.
Mediation is strongly supported by the Singapore judiciary and often seen as complementary to litigation and arbitration.
(a) Case management services
The SIMC offers professional case management services and administers mediations under the SIMC Mediation Rules (unless the mediation is administered pursuant to the Arb-Med-Arb Protocol between the SIAC and SIMC (AMA Protocol), discussed below), including appointing a suitable mediator where parties are unable to jointly nominate one, assisting parties with entering into a mediation agreement, arranging logistics and facilities for mediations.
(b) Panel of Mediators
The SIMC’s panel consists of over 65 internationally recognised mediators from 14 different countries with expertise in diverse areas of commercial practice. The mediators are or will be independently certified by the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI), a professional standards body for mediation in Singapore and the region.
Further, the CVs of the mediators (available on SIMC’s website) describe their mediation style, which range from facilitative to evaluative, in order to assist parties in nominating a suitable mediator depending on the requirements of the case.
(c) Difference between SIMC and SMC
While both the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) and the SIMC offer mediation services, the SMC focuses primarily on domestic disputes and in addition to providing mediation services, also trains and acts as an accreditation body for mediators.
This difference in focus is reflected in the SMC and SIMC’s respective panels of mediators – with the SMC having a panel of mainly local mediators with expertise extending beyond commercial disputes, including for example, a specialised Family Panel of mediators.
(d) The SIAC-SIMC Arb-Med-Arb Protocol
Significantly, the SIMC and the SIAC have introduced a hybrid dispute resolution mechanism in the form of the AMA Protocol, which envisions mediation as a complement to arbitration proceedings. Parties can opt to incorporate the model Arb-Med-Arb clause and refer their disputes to arbitration and mediation administered by the SIAC and SIMC respectively or alternatively, where parties have commenced arbitration at SIAC, they may at any stage, refer their dispute to SIMC for mediation.
Under the AMA Protocol, parties refer their dispute to arbitration at the SIAC first and after the Response to Notice of Arbitration is filed by the Respondent and the arbitral tribunal constituted, arbitration proceedings will be stayed and the matter submitted for mediation at SIMC. The arbitrator(s) and the mediator(s) will be separately and independently appointed by SIAC and SIMC respectively, unless parties agree otherwise.
If a settlement is reached during mediation, parties may record it as a consent award. In the event parties are unable to settle their dispute through mediation during a maximum 8 week period, the arbitral proceedings will resume. Parties may extend this 8 week period by application to the Registrar of SIAC.
Settlement agreements recorded as consent awards under the AMA Protocol, are generally enforceable as arbitral awards under the New York Convention in over 145 countries who are party to the convention.
In March 2016, the Singapore Ministry of Law launched a public consultation seeking feedback for the proposed Mediation Bill, which aims to strengthen the legislative framework for enforcement of mediated settlements conducted in Singapore. In particular, the proposed Mediation Bill contains provisions allowing parties to apply to the court by agreement to record the mediated settlement agreement as a court order under specific circumstances. This would enhance the enforceability of settlement agreements arrived at through mediation.