– More than 260 professionals from around the world are gathering in Singapore today for a conference to promote mediation as a cost-efficient way to resolve disputes.
The two-day conference titled “Mediation Diversity – Asia & Beyond” is the first by the Asian Mediation Association (AMA, 第一届亚洲调解协会会议), a regional grouping of mediation centres from Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Professionals from these centres as well as their counterparts from the US, Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand will discuss mediation as a cheaper, faster and more private way to resolve disputes outside the courts as well as the Asian approach to mediation.
The 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate former President Martti Ahtisaari of Finland will be the keynote speaker at the conference hosted by the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC, 新加坡调解中心). Noted for his international peace work, he helped to resolve conflicts in Kosovo, Namibia, Aceh and Iraq. He will speak on opportunities and challenges for peace mediation in Asia.
Singapore’s Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs, K Shanmugam will be the guest of honour at the event’s opening this morning.
Sundaresh Menon, Senior Counsel and a member of the board of directors of SMC said: “We are delighted to host this international mediation event. The timing could not have been better in view of the global economic downturn. We hope more companies will consider mediation as a first resort in settling disputes which we expect will rise in the region as the economic crisis worsens.”
Among the key issues to be discussed at the event are how mediation can help companies survive the recession and the significant role of cultural factors such as “giving face” in Asian mediation. Other topics include the rise of Islamic financial mediation in Asia and cross border mediation.
During the conference, Singapore’s Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong will launch the book titled “An Asian Perspective on Mediation.” The book examines the impact of Asian culture on the mediation process.
AMA was set up in August 2007 to promote and facilitate the use of mediation to amicably settle business and commercial disputes.
In mediation, the process of dispute resolution is managed by a mediator, who may be a respected and senior member of the legal or another profession. The alternatives to mediation are litigation or arbitration, both of which are proceedings presided by neutral persons who act as judges.
There is no judge presiding over a mediation. Instead, the mediator who may be a practising lawyer, a retired judge or a professional trained in the art of mediation, helps disputing parties resolve the conflict themselves.
The outcome of mediation is thus determined by the parties in dispute. They can select the mediators, keep proceedings and settlement private, develop creative and pragmatic solutions, as well as avoid protracted court proceedings.
Mediation is thus non-adversarial, focuses on problem-solving, maintains relationships and helps save cost and time. The savings from mediating a dispute as against litigating it in court could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and hearing fees.
Since it began operation in 1997, the SMC has mediated 1,422 cases with S$1.7 billion of assets in dispute. Of these, 75% were settled and of the resolved cases, more than 90% were settled within a day.
Among the cases the SMC has successfully mediated was the dispute between Singapore Airlines (SIA) and British Airways (BA). The two carriers had initiated legal proceedings against each other after BA claimed that SIA infringed its patent when it introduced its First Class seat beds or 'skysuites'. BA introduced its own First Class sleeper seats two years before SIA. The two carriers agreed to withdraw their legal suits after mediation.
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The Singapore Mediation Centre ("SMC") is the flagship mediation centre of Singapore. It was officially launched on 16 August 1997. The SMC is a non-profit organisation guaranteed by the Singapore Academy of Law. It is linked institutionally with many professional and trade associations and receives the support of the Supreme and the Subordinate Courts of Singapore and the Singapore Academy of Law. The SMC has successfully spearheaded the mediation movement in Singapore and is dedicated to the promotion of amicable and efficient settlement of disputes. It aims to create an environment in which people can work together to find enduring solutions to conflicts and tensions created by human interactions. It contributes to the building of a harmonious society, and a thriving business community, by broadening awareness of, and providing access to, constructive means of dispute resolution and conflict management.
The Asian Mediation Association was set up in August 2007. It promotes and facilitates the use of mediation to amicably settle disputes in Asia. AMA also provides a regional dispute resolution infrastructure for conflict management and dispute resolution that will support the increasing cross-border investment and trade activities of the fast growing Asian economies. AMA is made up of member organisations involved in mediation, which are based in Asia. Presently the AMA members are the Delhi Mediation Centre, the Hong Kong Mediation Centre, the Indonesian Mediation Center, the Malaysian Mediation Centre, the Philippine Mediation Center and the Singapore Mediation Centre. The Singapore Mediation Centre also serves as the AMA Secretariat.