SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT – 2ND READING OF THE MEDIATION BILL ON 9/1/17
Madam Speaker, I declare my interest as an Accredited Mediator with Singapore Mediation Centre. I rise in support of this Bill which seeks to promote, encourage and facilitate the resolution of disputes by mediation.
I have two suggestions to make:
(i) Continual appraisal of accredited mediators
Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI for short) was incorporated in 2014 as a non-profit organisation supported by the Ministry of Law to set up professional standards for mediators further to the International Commercial Mediation Working Group’s recommendations to develop Singapore into a centre for international commercial mediation.
Based on the offerings stated on SIMI’s website, SIMI’s work is primarily focused on accrediting at the moment although it also states that it aims to apply and enforce world-class standards of mediation, to make tools available to parties to make basic decisions about mediation and to promote mediation education and awareness.
At the Singapore Mediation Lecture in 2013, Lord Woolf said that “There is a need for the continual appraisal of mediators who are accredited”.
Mediation has come a long way but it is still a journey.
The field now needs to evolve quickly into a true profession. High minimum practice and ethical standards need to be set, made transparent and achieved internationally.
Users of mediation need to see these standards operating effectively. More and better information needs to be made available by individual mediators about their skills, capabilities and personalities. Quality and transparency together will enable mediation to grow.
Mediators too need to be suitably recognized for their expertise and skills.
Clause 12 of the Mediation Bill allows the recording of a mediated settlement agreement as an order of Court with parties’ consent where the mediation is administered by a designated mediation service provider or conducted by a certified mediator and subject to other qualifying factors.
This facilitates the ease of enforcement of the mediation settlement agreement as parties currently have to commence legal proceedings to enforce the settlement agreement.
With the passing of the Mediation Bill and in light of Clause 12, there is now a greater need to set standards, increase transparency and ensure the continual appraisal of accredited mediators through professional bodies.
The professional bodies can also determine the threshold and where needed investigate into whether the mediation or mediator falls below the requisite standards.
This in turn gives credibility to the profession and builds confidence in using mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
Four justifications to support regulating mediators include:
(1) protecting the public from problematic mediators,
(2) providing information to the public about mediators,
(3) improving mediator ability and capabilities, and
(4) enhancing the credibility of the profession.
This is bearing in mind the limited number of accredited mediators and also the areas or topics of mediation work which is availed to enhance the experience and currency of their mediation work.
(ii) Grievance system to deal with complaints about Mediation/Mediators
With increased use of mediation, sooner or later, complaints against mediators may arise. Having a grievance system in place gives confidence to parties agreeing to resolve their dispute via mediation.
The grievance system will also complement the accreditation and/or possible self-regulation efforts of professional bodies to raise standards.
Having a professional body implement a grievance system to deal with complaints about mediators also enables better addressing of issues concerning the role of the mediator in mediation proceedings.
Madam Speaker, I hope Ministry of Law would consider these two suggestions. With that, I support the Bill.