On Thursday, 28 May 2020, the Society of Mediation Professionals had the privilege of hosting the CEO of SMC (Mr Ban Jiun Ean) and the Executive Director of SIMC (Mr Chuan Wee Meng) to a Zoom discussion attended by close to 30 of our members.
In a wide-ranging discussion entitled “To Infinity & Beyond: Developing a Flourishing & Thriving Mediation Landscape in Singapore” moderated masterfully by an SMP member, Assoc Prof Lum Kit Wye, both leaders of the dispute resolution industry provided insights about the broad challenges that they faced in the dispute resolution landscape, what they have seen (and expect) the impact of COVID-19 to be in the mediation landscape, the increasing maturity of mediation as a profession in Singapore, future trends in mediation, the Singapore Convention and how they foresee mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism would grow in the years to come.
The discussion touched on the global challenges posed by COVID-19 and how it will affect business realities in the near future. This will likely result in more disputes, which given the cash-flow problems associated with the new economic landscape, may potentially allow for new opportunities for mediation to thrive in a COVID-19 landscape. One should, however, be alive to some of the challenges that would necessarily arise for mediation in this new normal – where mediations may have to be done remotely and where privacy issues may have to be navigated. The discussion also noted that even when people come together physically to mediate, mediating in a world where everyone wears face-masks itself raises its own unique set of challenges (e.g. the challenges for mediators trying to read facial expressions when one wears face-masks). That said, there is a lot of promise from the development of new technological solutions in this new COVID-19 world for mediation, even if there remain many challenges (e.g. illicit recordings) that may need to be overcome in the years to come.
The speakers also shared about how there are positive signs that there are increasing awareness of mediation in the community (including mediating parties increasingly making informed decisions about who they want as mediators), but at the same time, more needed to be done by all of the parties involved in the field to make mediation become a first port of call as a dispute resolution mechanism. This would include increasing awareness of the power underlying mediation and its versatility and breadth as a tool, including allowing parties to curate and develop plausible outcomes that may not necessarily be possible in other dispute resolution mechanisms.
It would be impossible for any write-up to do justice to the rich 90 minute discussion that took place and the many responses given by both speakers (and the moderator) to the questions posed by the audience, so we do welcome all of you (both members and non-members) to join us for future conversations with industry leaders and leading lights in the mediation profession.
SMP thanks Jiun Ean and Wee Meng for sharing their candid and insightful thoughts on some of the challenges and opportunities in the field of mediation (both in Singapore and globally), and Assoc Prof Lum for her masterful moderator-ship, and we will be sure to keep you updated on such future conversations (both in person and over Zoom) in the months to come!