First Singapore lawyer to helm global arbitration institute wraps up 2020 term

Senior Counsel Francis Xavier concluded his one-year term as president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in December.
Senior Counsel Francis Xavier concluded his one-year term as president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in December.PHOTO: FRANCIS XAVIER

SINGAPORE - About three months after Senior Counsel Francis Xavier became the first Singapore lawyer to helm the London-headquartered Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), Singapore entered the circuit breaker period amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the challenges last year, the international centre of excellence for the practice and profession of alternative dispute resolution(ADR) grew on several fronts.

In a message to conclude his one-year term as CIArb president last month, SC Xavier said: "We started the year with 15,589 members and end it with 16,520 members heading into 2021. A year during which we have been masked, grounded, largely contained in our homes and kept away from many of our loved ones and colleagues.

"Despite that, we have made significant progress and have forged ahead on many fronts. The leadership and membership of CIArb admirably rose to the occasion."

CIArb members are spread across 149 countries, supported by a network of 41 branches.

It provides education and training for arbitrators, mediators and adjudicators, and acts as a global hub for practitioners, policymakers, academics and those in business, supporting the global promotion, facilitation and development of all ADR methods.

One of the three global thought leadership initiatives during SC Xavier's term was the CIArb/Judicial Insolvency Network (JIN) to work out a pragmatic code for the use of ADR in cross-border insolvency and restructuring. This initiative had "vital support from Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justice Kannan Ramesh", SC Xavier said.

The other initiatives were the formation of the blockchain/smart contracts global impact review committee and plans for the inaugural bi-annual CIArb global conference scheduled for February next year in Singapore, he told The Straits Times.

SC Xavier, who is regional head of dispute practices at Rajah & Tann, is also a past president of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association.

Among other things, he is actively involved in cross-border dispute cases in various areas, including investment-related claims. He is also assisting several Asian governments in setting up their international arbitration frameworks.