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The future of dispute resolution - globalisation

Posted by Stephanie Kemp on 12 April 2016

Our appreciation of current issues in the dispute resolution world was deepened when we attended the Singapore 2016 Global Pound Conference Shaping the Future of Dispute Resolution and Improving Access to Justice. The more we learn about contemporary dispute resolution, the better we understand how our role as consulting (dirty) or independent (clean) expert fits into the process as a whole and the better we can assist our clients.

The opening address by Sundaresh Menon, Chief Justice of Singapore on the impact of globalization on dispute resolution set the tone for the two days of the conference. Menon looked at globalization in terms of three major socio-economic shifts that are taking place:

  • The open movement of capital and labour, leading to an increase in cross border trade and as a consequence cross border disputes
  • A move towards cross cultural convergence as legal systems built for transactions within nations are forced to converge with one another and reduce the costs of compliance for an increasing level of international trade and commerce
  • An increase in parties seeking access to justice through non-traditional means by agreement such as arbitration, mediation or a combination of the two, giving them a flatter structure, using a facilitator rather than a judge, and greater self-determination.

Legal systems have to respond to these pressures and can do so in three main ways:

  • Countries need to equip their legal systems with a range of options including Alternative Dispute Resolution avenues - the courts may not be the best answer for all cases. He suggested the A in ADR should stand for appropriate dispute resolution rather than alternative different disputes call for different approaches. At the same time, there should be greater specialization on the bench and recognition that some subject matter may require an expert amicus curiae to assist the judge with the technical aspects of the subject matter.
  • There needs to be increased communication between stakeholders so that jurisdictions learn from each other and adopt the best features of other systems. Conventions on the enforcement of judgements and collaboration and knowledge sharing between courts in different countries will help in building a system where there is less incentive to forum shop and judgments and agreements are enforced.
  • In spite of culture clashes and different approaches to ethics, the way forward involves drawing on a global talent pool and allowing practitioners to work outside their home jurisdiction.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Menon finished by emphasizing the qualities of Singapore as a forum for international dispute resolution. In addition to its well-known Singapore International Arbitration Centre, it now also boasts the Singapore International Mediation Centre and is pioneering a process where mediation and arbitration are combined. The most recent addition to Singapore's dispute resolution menu is the Singapore International Commercial Court, of which Menon appeared to be very proud. He sees this as an alternative to international arbitration, with parties agreeing to be bound by its jurisdiction at the outset. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, however.  So far the SICC has only heard a couple of cases.

Author: Stephanie Kemp
Tags: expert witness dispute resolution ADR Litigation Support

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