The Singapore Dispute Resolution Institutions – What and Why (Part 1 of 4)

05 MarThe Singapore Dispute Resolution Institutions – What and Why (Part 1 of 4)


The Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy (SIDRA) was launched on 17 March 2016 at the 2016 Global Pound Conference as a regional hub and international platform for thought leadership, research and development, and training and education in negotiation and dispute resolution.

Since SIDRA's launch, many people have asked, "What is SIDRA?"

Like negotiators and mediators well-versed with the interests-based model, some people have also asked, "Why SIDRA?"

These are good questions, and indeed, questions to be expected.

SIDRA is the latest of a string of "Singapore International" dispute resolution institutions to be launched in recent years. By way of context, the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) and the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) were set up in 2014 and the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) was officially launched in 2015. SIDRA is the fifth "Singapore International" dispute resolution institution to be established.

It may be difficult to keep track of the number and names of the Singapore dispute resolution institutions, not to mention understand their functions and purposes.

In this 4-part blog series, “The Singapore Dispute Resolution Institutions – What and Why”, we hope to lend clarity to the situation and answer the following questions:


(A) Apart from SIDRA, what are the various Singapore dispute resolution institutions and what do they do?

(B) Why these various Singapore dispute resolution institutions?

(C) What is SIDRA and what does SIDRA do?

(D) Why SIDRA?


In the first part of this series, we look at the following question:

(A) Apart from SIDRA, what are the various Singapore dispute resolution institutions and what do they do?

The Singapore dispute resolution institutions are those that (i) bear the "Singapore" name and which in some way are supported by the Singapore Government (more specifically, the Ministry of Law); and (ii) provide dispute resolution services. Apart from SIDRA, these are:

  • For court-based litigation, the Singapore Judiciary (including SICC as part of the Supreme Court);
  • For arbitration, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC); and
  • For mediation, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), SIMC and SIMI.

Court-based litigation – Singapore Judiciary

For court-based litigation, we have the Singapore Judiciary, which is made up of the Supreme Court (consisting of the High Court and the Court of Appeal) and the State Courts (previously named the Subordinate Courts). The Singapore Courts form the bedrock of the Singapore judicial system. Its function is to administer justice to the people of Singapore.

SICC is a division of the High Court (and therefore part of the Supreme Court). It is designed to deal with transnational commercial disputes and offers litigants the option of having their disputes adjudicated by a panel of specialist commercial judges from Singapore and international judges from both civil law and common law traditions.

In 2016, Singapore ratified the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements and Parliament passed the Choice of Court Agreements Act. This Act enhances the enforceability of Singapore judgments abroad and strengthens Singapore’s position as a forum for international commercial dispute resolution.

Arbitration – SIAC      

For arbitration, we have SIAC, which is the earliest of the "Singapore International" dispute resolution institutions to commence operations (in 1991). SIAC is an independent not-for-profit organisation that provides arbitration services to the global business community. It is note-worthy that (i) in 2015, Singapore was ranked by the International Chamber of Commerce as the number one seat of arbitration in Asia, and the fourth most preferred seat of arbitration globally; and (ii) in 2017, Parliament passed the Civil Law Amendment Bill to allow third-party funding to finance international commercial arbitration. It was also announced that that the current size of Maxwell Chambers will be tripled.

Mediation – SMC, SIMC and SIMI For mediation, we have three Singapore institutions to look at, namely SMC, SIMC and SIMI. Given the similarities in their names, it may be easy to get confused so let us go through them one by one.

First up, we have SMC, which was launched in 1997 by the then Chief Justice Yong Pung How. It provides a suite of alternative dispute resolution services, namely private commercial mediation, adjudication, neutral evaluation, domain name dispute resolution and collaborative family practice. It also conducts training and assessment courses that lead to professional mediator accreditation. Indeed, SMC pioneered the use of mediation as a mainstream mechanism for dispute resolution in Singapore. In 2016, SMC recorded the highest number of cases filed in its 20-year history. It saw 499 cases in 2016, a 72 per cent increase over 2015.

Next, we have SIMC and SIMI. By way of context, a nine-member International Commercial Mediation Working Group (ICMWG) was covened in April 2013 by the Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and the Ministry of Law to propose plans to develop the international commercial mediation space in Singapore. The ICMWG made six key recommendations, of which two led to the establishment in 2014 of SIMC and SIMI.

One recommendation was to establish an international mediation service provider which would work closely with SIAC and offer as part of its service offerings, a quality panel of international mediators and technical experts, as well as user-centric innovative products and services - i.e. SIMC. Another recommendation was to establish a professional body to set quality standards and provide accreditation for mediators - i.e. SIMI.

SIMC provides world-class mediation services and products targeted at the needs of parties in cross-border international commercial disputes. Therein lies the difference between SIMC and SMC.

  • The former focuses on international commercial disputes, whereas the latter focuses on domestic commercial disputes. Unlike SMC, which maintains a panel that comprises largely of local mediators, SIMC has a panel of international mediators.
  • Furthermore, SIMC does not, like SMC, conduct training and assessment courses that lead to professional mediator accreditation.

SIMC is housed at Maxwell Chambers. Together with SIAC, SIMC offers the hybrid Arbitration-Mediation-Arbitration (Arb-Med-Arb) Protocol. This Protocol allows a mediated settlement agreement to be recorded as a consent arbitral award.

SIMI is a professional standards body for mediation. More specifically, it provides and maintains SIMI Credentialing Scheme, which is a professional standards scheme developed by SIMI to recognise the experience of professional mediators. Like a martial arts grading system, there are four tiers under SIMI Credentialing Scheme, namely, SIMI Accredited Mediator Level 1, SIMI Accredited Mediator Level 2, SIMI Accredited Mediator Level 3 and SIMI Certified Mediator. Aspiring mediators attain Level 1 accreditation if they complete and pass a training program recognised by SIMI. A Level 1 accredited mediator can then rise to Level 2, Level 3 and the Certified level as they acquire mediation experience, provide feedback and pass the relevant assessment.

SIMI works together with its partners under the SIMI Partner Program (namely Registered Training Programs, Registered Service Providers and Qualifying Assessment Programs) to maintain the SIMI Credentialing Scheme. Apart from applying and maintaining professional standards of mediation, SIMI also aims to (i) provide impartial information about mediation; (ii) make tools available to parties to make basic decisions about mediation; and (iii) promote mediation education and awareness. SIMI is housed at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law.

Being a professional standards body for mediation, SIMI is different from SMC and SIMC for two reasons. Firstly, unlike SMC and SIMC, SIMI does not provide mediation services. Secondly, unlike SMC, SIMI does not conduct training and assessment courses that lead to professional mediator accreditation.


To summarise the first part of our 4-part blog series, the Singapore dispute resolution institutions (i) comprise the Singapore Judiciary (including SICC as part of the Supreme Court), SIAC, SMC, SIMC and SIMI and SIDRA (more on SIDRA in third and fourth post of this 4-part blog series); and (ii) serve different functions in the provision of mediation, arbitration and court-based litigation services.

STAY TUNED. In the second part of this 4-part blog series, “The Singapore Dispute Resolution Institutions – What and Why”, we will examine the question of, "Why these various Singapore dispute resolution institutions?" If you found this post helpful, hit the Facebook "Share" button below and like SIDRA's Facebook page!

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