SIMI’s s first Townhall meeting on 3 February 2023 provided a platform for the SIMI team to receive feedback from our mediators and to address issues of concern to them.
Q: What are the current and future trends in mediation that could influence the development of the mediation industry?
A: There have been exciting challenges in the mediation landscape, represented by these trends/developments:
- Worldwide increase in volume of mediation training/number of training providers.
- Increasing number of mediation services domestically/internationally.
- In Singapore, Order 5 of the Rules of Court now requires parties to consider an amicable resolution before proceeding to take their case to court.
While these represent rising interest in mediation, the mediation industry continues to be largely unregulated. How then do we ensure the professionalism of mediators (in terms of skills and behaviours) and that of mediation service providers?
SIMI aims to address these issues by:
- Setting/clarifying benchmarks (in terms of skills and behaviours) for mediation training and developing ways to audit such training fairly and effectively.
- Establishing a base level of mediator competency within SIMI’s accredited mediation services.
- Reviewing its system for levelling up mediators’ experience requirements.
This will help increase the public’s trust and confidence in mediators and mediation services.
There are also opportunities to be seized:
- Increasing use of mediation in international commercial disputes (such as tech and IP disputes, and investor-state disputes).
- Specialisation by mediators/advocates.
- Art 5(1)(e) of the Singapore Convention on Mediation which flags the importance of upholding the professional practice standards of mediators.
- Increasing need to understanding and provide training in mediation advocacy.
These trends provide increasing opportunities for mediators to build their practice, as well as to build up their capacity as specialist mediators in certain sectors. In the area of professional practice standards, SIMI hopes to provide thought leadership by enhancing its Code of Conduct such that it could one day be an international standard.
Q: What is the value of being a SIMI-accredited mediator?
A: A SIMI accreditation is an independent mark of quality which is issued by a government-backed entity. It provides assurance to users of mediation services that SIMI-accredited mediators are professionals who are able to facilitate the efficient and effective resolution of disputes. This mark of quality, along with the assurance it provides, supports mediators and mediation service providers in promoting their services.
SIMI encourages its accredited mediators and mediation training and service providers to use this as an industry mark to promote high quality and effective mediation services to potential disputants, similar to how the Singapore Safety Mark assures the public of the safety of various gazetted electrical appliances.
Q: Beyond being an accreditation body, could SIMI consider setting benchmarks directly by conducting training and assessment itself?
A: Established to be an accreditation body, SIMI will need to maintain an “arm’s length” from training providers. Its independence and impartiality may be called into question if SIMI were to both train and assess its own mediators as this would be a conflict of interest. While SIMI’s mandate does not preclude it from providing training services, doing so had, in the past, been perceived as competing with its training partners. Therefore, any expansion of SIMI’s role to incorporate mediation training will need to take into account these factors, and a re-examination of the relationship between SIMI and its accredited training providers.
For now, given that SIMI has limited resources, it has decided to prioritise sharpening its standards and increasing the recognition and acceptance of its quality mark in the mediation industry.
Q: How could SIMI increase business opportunities for it accredited mediators?
A: As part of its advocacy and outreach efforts, SIMI has started exploring collaborations with businesses and industry sectors, as well as like-minded mediation institutions, to promote the use of mediation and create such opportunities. Specifically, SIMI would work with service providers to explain the significance of having an accreditation mark for mediators/mediation services, and engaging SIMI-accredited mediators. SIMI has also been in talks to establish cross-recognition arrangements with IMI and the Alliance of Mediation Standards, which would potentially provide SIMI-accredited mediators with opportunities to mediate or co-mediate in cross-border disputes.
Q: How can SIMI Certified Mediators who are based overseas get more involved and support SIMI?
A: SIMI has been fielding its Certified Mediators, where appropriate and regardless of which jurisdiction they are based in, to provide thought leadership about professional practice standards and related issues through talks, publications, and other initiatives..
Q: The industry perceives SIMI as an “umbrella” organisation for the mediation industry. Why are SIMI’s credentials (i.e. representative of certain standards) not recognised across the board by all mediation service providers in Singapore? Can SIMI direct mediation service providers to recognise anyone holding its credentials?
A: SIMI is not an “umbrella” organisation for the industry. Each mediation service provider is free to set their own criteria for their panel of mediators, over and above being SIMI-accredited. SIMI does not have the power to direct service providers to accept all SIMI-accredited mediators onto their panels. This is similar to other professions where qualifying to practice a particular profession (eg law, medicine, accounting, architecture) does not mean that one would be hired by the firm of your choice.
Q: How does being “SIMI-accredited” differ from being “SMC-accredited”? As SMC charges fees to its mediators, why do its SIMI-accredited mediators have to pay fees to SIMI?
A: Being “accredited” by a mediation service provider means that one has successfully completed a training programme conducted by that service provider and has passed an assessment by that same service provider. Accreditation by SIMI, on the other hand, means that one is recognised by an independant third-party as conforming to certain standards. Mediators pay fees to SMC on the understanding that SMC may refer cases to them. SIMI’s fees are paid for a mediator to be associated with the SIMI mark, which can be used by mediators to promote their mediation practice as an industry quality mark.