American Society of Civil Engineers

Legal Framework for Alternative Dispute Resolution: Examination of the Singapore National Legal System for Arbitration

by Evelyn Ai Lin Teo, (corresponding author), (Asst. Prof., Dept. of Bldg., Natl. Univ. of Singapore, 4 Architecture Dr., Singapore 117566 E-mail: and Ajibade Ayodeji Aibinu, (Res. Scholar, Dept. of Bldg., Natl. Univ. of Singapore, 4 Architecture Dr., Singapore 117566. E-mail:

Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, Vol. 133, No. 2, April 2007, pp. 148-157, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Effectiveness of any alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method depends on the national legal system to which it is subjected. In Singapore, the increasing growth in the use of ADR methods may be adduced to developments in the Singapore legal environment. This paper reviews the characteristics of the Singapore national legal system for arbitration. It examines how the legal system facilitates effective use of ADR. By its features, the Singapore national legal system ensures parties’ autonomy but deters parties from taking opportunistic advantage of the voluntary nature of ADR. It enables procedural flexibility, and confidentiality of arbitration proceedings. It insulates the arbitration process from intervention from the Singapore courts and from corruption; and it provides maximum judicial support in the arbitral process. Hence, it ensures that disputes can be brought to a conclusion within a reasonable amount of time, at a reasonable cost, as well as preserving business relationships. The Singapore legal system insures the integrity of arbitration and the independence of arbitrators and arbitral institutions by immunity provisions. In addition, the legal system enhances the use of mediation and conciliation in a sequential tier with arbitration by providing a time limit for mediation or conciliation to terminate should they fail to produce a mutually acceptable settlement. In Singapore, the court system is generally known to be efficient; hence, ADR faces the practical challenge of becoming lengthier than court proceedings. The continuing search for and use of expedited arbitration procedures by arbitral institutions such as the Singapore International Arbitration Centre should reduce this challenge. This paper provides useful information on how a national legal system may be designed to support the use of ADR methods and facilitate their effectiveness.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Legal factors
Dispute resolution
Construction industry