Experts in a webinar underscore need of signing Singapore Convention on Mediation by Government of Bangladesh

Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC) organised its 11th webinar on 22 February 2021 on ‘’Why Bangladesh should sign the Singapore Convention on Mediation?” jointly with its partner organisation the London College of Legal Studies (South), the Affiliate Centre of the University of London. The Singapore Convention on Mediation, formally the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation was adopted on 20 December 2018 and is an international agreement regarding the recognition of mediated settlements. The Convention has so far been signed by 53 states.

The aim of the webinar was to suggest as to how signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation by the Government of Bangladesh will strategically encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country, as foreign investors often tend to prefer more amicable methods of commercial dispute resolution, such as mediation. The ongoing global catastrophe caused by COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to the exigency of signing the Convention by our Government on a priority basis. Moreover, the Singapore Convention on Mediation is purported to support international trade and it encourages the use of mediation when dealing with the resolution of cross border commercial disputes, the expert Panel of Discussants opined.

Speaking as a Panellist former Advisor to the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury explained the power of mediation and strongly recommended signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation by the Government of Bangladesh, in line with the New York Convention 1958 regarding Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards to which Bangladesh is a signatory. Had we been a signatory to the Singapore Convention on Mediation already, our RMG sector could be benefitted through mediation process during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Chowdhury opined. He hoped that this webinar will facilitate decision making process for signing the Singapore Convention on Mediation and lead Bangladesh to be a part of the global dispute resolution system.

In his Closing Remarks Chairman of the BIAC Board Mahbubur Rahman, who is also President of International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh  said that often arbitration is preferred over mediation to resolve international commercial disputes because of the expedited enforcement mechanism available under the New York Convention 1958. Ratifying The Singapore Convention on Mediation would mean that it would give teeth to Mediation in Bangladesh, Rahman opined. He hoped that through this webinar we can collectively explore on the needs for the Singapore Convention, its significance, legal issues surrounding mediated settlements, the current issues of debates pertaining to the adoption of the Convention and the changes in domestic legislation that would be necessary for the Convention to function efficiently.

In his Welcome Address the CEO of BIAC Muhammad A. (Rumee) Ali said that BIAC has Rules of Mediation, but we need national law for mediation. He added that the Singapore Convention provides much more certainty when dealing with cross border mediation. He maintained that the nature of some disputes such as long term investment and infrastructure projects involving cross border elements would benefit from the Convention. Therefore, Bangladesh should sign the Singapore Convention to help attract more FDIs, Ali insisted.

Abdul Hamid Chowdhury, Principal, London College of Legal Studies (South) also delivered Welcome Address on behalf of his organisation and stressed on the need of further cooperation between LCLS (South) and BIAC in the field of training and research on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). He hoped that joint venture initiatives of LCLS (South) and the ADR ODR International in the mediation spectrum would give better access to justice in Bangladesh.

Government and corporate officials, lawyers, academicians, accredited mediators, ADR experts, bankers and business leaders of high eminence from home and abroad participated in the largely attended webinar through Zoom transmission.

Barrister Dr. Khaled Hamid Chowdhury, FCIArb, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Head of Laws, LCLS (South) moderated the webinar. In course of discussion he attracted attention of the Government and pointed out the inevitabilities for the Government to sign the Singapore Convention in order to add more FDI to the country’s growing economy.  He answered to a number of questions from the audience.

Taking part in the discussion Panellist Md. Nazrul Islam, Director General, Multilateral Economic Affairs, Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that at this crucial time while Bangladesh is graduating from LDC to a Developing Country and the Government is working hard on Vision 2041 for the country’s graduation to a Developed Country and achieving a double digit GDP, resolution of business disputes through mediation is a must instead of resorting to court proceedings. Signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation is a very good option for us in view of millions of pending cases in courts, he opined. Mr. Islam urged upon the Ministry of Law to come forward with amendment of concerned laws for accommodating mediation as a dispute resolution tool.

Barrister Rahim Shamji, Founder and Chief Executive, ADR ODR International, London, UK also spoke on the occasion as a Panellist and categorised that over the last 20 years Bangladesh has created excellent capacity in international law and ADR. In recent years Bangladesh has also added highly qualified and internationally respected mediators. This talent can only be harnessed if Bangladesh attracts international dispute resolution and by signing the Singapore Convention, such opportunities are possible, Shamji opined.

Shireen Scheik Mainuddin, Principal Consultant, ASAAN, Dhaka, in her deliberations gave an outline of the Singapore Convention on Mediation and said that once Bangladesh signs the Convention, banks will be bound to go for mandatory mediation process to realise bad debts. She maintained that as most of the trading partners of Bangladesh have already signed the Singapore Convention, by signing the same Bangladesh businesses will get a new impetus and Mediation Clause in commercial contracts will bear its proper value.

Panellist Anil Changaroth, Mediator/ Arbitrator/ Adjudicator, ChangAroth Chambers LLC, Singapore said that Bangladesh signing onto the Singapore Convention would be a massive boost in confidence with its international relations, commerce and trade. With the enforceability of Mediated Settlement Agreement under the Singapore Convention the culture and practice of mediation will take the lead in ADR mechanism available to individuals, businesses and institutions across the nation, Changaroth hoped.

Dr. Rana Md. Parvez Sattar, Access to Justice, Human Rights and Governance Expert said that by signing the Convention, Bangladesh would require appropriate legislative provisions to the effect that parties to the settlement may submit a petition to the High Court Division for recording the agreement between the parties as an Order of the Court. Dr. Sattar mentioned that the accompanying Model Law of the Singapore Convention provides a legal framework that would serve as an important guideline.

The webinar was live streamed on FACEBOOK pages and LinkedIn profiles of BIAC and LCLS (South). The daily Bonik Barta was the media partner of the event.