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Call for BD to sign S'pore convention on mediation

FE REPORT | February 23, 2021 00:00:00

Former adviser to a caretaker government Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury (top, left), Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC) Board chairman Mahbubur Rahman (top, 2nd from left), BIAC CEO Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali (top, right) and other distinguished persons at a webinar organised by BIAC on Monday

Experts have suggested that Bangladesh sign the Singapore convention on mediation to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) as investors often seek amicable methods of commercial dispute resolution.

Signing the convention could be a very good option for Bangladesh in view of millions of pending cases in the legal system, they said.

The Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC) on Monday virtually hosted the event styled 'Why Bangladesh should sign the Singapore convention on mediation?' jointly with London College of Legal Studies (South), an affiliate of University of London.

The Singapore convention, formally the UN convention on international settlement agreements resulting from mediation, was adopted on December 20 in 2018.

It is an international agreement regarding the recognition of mediated settlements. Fifty-three states have so far signed the convention.

The event highlighted how the signing of this convention by Bangladesh would strategically encourage FDI here, as foreigners often tend to prefer amicable methods of dispute resolution like mediation.

The ongoing global coronavirus crisis has given rise to the exigency of signing the convention by the government on a priority basis, says a press release.

The convention is purported to support international trade and it encourages the use of mediation when dealing with cross-border commercial disputes, opined the expert panel of discussants.

Former adviser to a caretaker government Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury explained the power of mediation and strongly recommended signing the convention in line with the New York convention-1958 regarding enforcement of foreign arbitral awards to which Bangladesh is a signatory.

"Had we already been a signatory to the Singapore convention on mediation," he opined, "our garment sector could be benefited through mediation during the pandemic crisis."

Mr Chowdhury hoped the webinar would facilitate decision-making process for signing the convention and lead Bangladesh to be a part of the global dispute resolution system.

BIAC Board chairman Mahbubur Rahman said arbitration is often preferred over mediation to resolve international commercial disputes because of the expedited enforcement mechanism available under the New York convention.

"Ratifying the Singapore convention on mediation would mean that it would give teeth to mediation in Bangladesh," added Mr Rahman, also president of International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh.

"Through this webinar, we can collectively explore the needs for the Singapore convention, its significance, legal issues surrounding mediated settlements, current issues of debates pertaining to the adoption of the convention and the changes in domestic legislation that will be necessary for the convention to function efficiently."

BIAC CEO Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali said the BIAC has the rules of mediation, but the country needs a national law for mediation.

The Singapore convention provides much more certainty when dealing with cross-border mediation, he added.

Mr Ali cited that the nature of some disputes like long-term investment and infrastructure projects involving cross-border elements would benefit from it.

"Therefore, Bangladesh should sign the Singapore Convention to help attract more FDIs," he mentioned.

London College of Legal Studies (South) principal Abdul Hamid Chowdhury stressed further cooperation between his college and BIAC in the field of training and research on alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

He hoped 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 webinar through Zoom transmission.

Barrister Dr Khaled Hamid Chowdhury, also head of Laws, LCLS (South), moderated the webinar.

He attracted the government's attention and pointed out its inevitabilities to sign the convention to add more FDI to the country's growing economy.

Foreign ministry director general (multilateral economic affairs) Md Nazrul Islam said while Bangladesh is graduating from its least-developed country status and achieving double-digit GDP, dispute resolution 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."

Mr Islam urged law ministry to come forward with amendments to laws concerned for accommodating mediation as a dispute resolution tool.

ADR ODR International, London founder and chief executive barrister Rahim Shamji categorised that over the past 20 years, Bangladesh has created excellent capacity in international law and ADR.

ASAAN, Dhaka principal consultant Shireen Scheik Mainuddin, ChangAroth Chambers LLC, Singapore adjudicator Anil Changaroth, and human rights and governance expert Dr Rana Md Parvez Sattar also spoke.

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