Singapore Convention Week 2021 Concludes
- The first-ever virtual edition of the Singapore Convention Week (SC Week), held from 6 to 10 September 2021, has concluded, with over 4,000 participants from over 100 countries attending the week-long series of events related to dispute resolution, including the inaugural UNCITRAL Academy. The events provided a platform for deep discussions and the 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, to be held from 29 August to 2 September 2022.
- Organised by the Singapore Ministry of Law in collaboration with 15 supporting partner organisations (see Annex A) including international dispute resolution institutions, SC Week saw top global legal practitioners, academics, business executives and government officials gather to share their insights on the evolving international dispute resolution landscape.
- In his keynote speech at the UNCITRAL Academy on 7 September, Mr K Shanmugam SC, Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law highlighted the greater need for good dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation, amid increasing uncertainty and unpredictability globally. 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.”
- Amidst this backdrop, it was timely that the UNCITRAL Academy was the key highlight of SC Week, held nearly a year from the Convention’s entry into force. Held from 7 to 8 September 2021, the UNCITRAL Academy comprised dialogues, fireside chats, panel discussions and capacity-building workshops featuring over 80 C-level executives and industry heavyweights from the private and public sectors. About 1,500 speakers and participants from around 90 countries across six continents attended the UNCITRAL Academy.
- The UNCITRAL Academy threw up lively discussions, including on the following topics:
a. Business challenges and opportunities during COVID-19: The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was front and centre in almost all the discussions at UNCITRAL Academy. 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 businesses to pick up new business models, anticipate potential disputes, and survive in the new normal.
b. Increasing importance of technology: Speakers 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.
c. The Singapore Convention on Mediation: The Convention, which now has 55 signatories and seven Parties, is an important step in promoting international trade. Speakers 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.
- Mr Edwin Tong SC, Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law said during the opening dialogue: “My hope for the week is to see more countries signing and ratifying the Singapore Convention on Mediation.” He added, "The more countries have signed up and ratified the Convention, the more accessible mediation will be, especially cross-border mediation.” Indeed, the happy news that Honduras ratified, and Australia signed, the Convention on 2 and 10 September 2021 respectively, capped off the SC Week.
- 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. “We are optimistic that the UNCITRAL Academy will continue to raise awareness, support the growth in use of mediation, and contribute to the necessary cultural shift in attitudes towards mediation around the world,” she said.
- A recap of highlights, speakers and events from SC Week 2021 can be found at https://www.singaporeconventionweek.sg/.