SINGAPORE - Last year, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) recorded the highest number of cases filed in its 20-year history.
The centre saw 499 cases in 2016, a 72 per cent increase over 2015.
The total quantum of disputed sums handled also reached a record high of $775 million in 2016, said the SMC in a news release issued on Thursday (Jan 26).
The SMC stated that the disputes were commercial in nature, with construction and company/shareholder disputes being the most common.
Established in 1997, the SMC pioneered the use of mediation as the mainstream mechanism for dispute resolution, as well as training in negotiation and conflict management.
The use of mediation has grown steadily over the years with greater awareness of its benefits.
SMC's executive director Loong Seng Onn said that the centre has played a key role in changing society's mind-set to embrace mediation to amicably resolve disputes. "We work closely with businesses and professional bodies to promote the use of mediation."
He added that over the years, SMC has also trained numerous lawyers, judges and judicial officers to equip them with mediation skills.
"As mediation gains traction, the next phase of our work is to make mediation a viable full-time career. We are working to create specialist panels to meet the needs of users," he said.
New judicial initiatives and the introduction of legislative framework has given a boost to the use of mediation.
Last year, an amendment to the Supreme Court Practice Directions has made it necessary for lawyers to advise their clients about the different ways disputes may be resolved using alternative dispute resolution , including mediation.
The Mediation Bill, passed in January, also supports commercial mediation by, for instance, strengthening the enforceability of mediated settlements.