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CJ Menon: Attacks on multilateral system won't last

CJ Menon: Attacks on multilateral system won't last

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 16 Oct 2019
Author: Grace Ho

The threat to multilateralism, international mediation and the possibility of a dedicated environmental court were among questions posed to CJ Sundaresh Menon yesterday after his lecture on the rule of law, the internationl legal order and the foreign policy of small states.

The threat to multilateralism, international mediation and the possibility of a dedicated environmental court were among questions posed to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday after his lecture on the rule of law, the internationl legal order and the foreign policy of small states.

The question-and-answer session was moderated by Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh. Here are edited extracts.

Q We are seeing attacks on multilateralism - is this a passing phase or a turning point?

A The challenges to multilateralism are not entirely new. That we have states articulating a preference for nationalism over global interest, is a reality of the times.

I'm by nature an optimist and don't think this is a turning point for multilateralism. The types of issues which warrant and demand multilateral responses, like the environment, affect everybody. The solutions cannot be generated by one state alone.

When you see international leaders come together for (platforms like) the Climate Action Summit... it suggests that states are still thinking in those terms.

Q How would one convince foreign counterparts like China to embrace the rule of law?

A China's emergence on the world stage as its second-largest economy is a reality. We cannot expect that China will take any position other than to want to be at the table, and have a say in the development of international systems that it has benefited from.

It can bring a greater diversity of voices that will shape the future of the world and deal with new challenges, such as climate change and cyber security.

The real point is examining the prospect that multilateral solutions will become necessary over time.

(Professor Tommy Koh added that an example is China's engagement of Asean to draft the code of conduct in the South China Sea.)

Q What is the future of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like mediation?

A I firmly believe that mediation will emerge in the next one or two decades as the most important method of dispute resolution.

It focuses on interests and the future, on what can bring the parties forward in a collaborative and positive manner - rather than trying to establish winners and losers. The parties retain control of the outcome.

It also has tremendous economy compared to traditional methods of adversarial dispute resolution such as litigation.

Q Is it possible to have an international environmental court?

A The development of a specialist court on environmental issues will be a challenge.

It took a long time for us to get to the stage of even discussing having an investment court to deal with investment claims. We had dealt with this through private arbitration for nearly 40 years.

It's possible, but it will take quite a long time before we get there.

Grace Ho


NOT A TURNING POINT

I'm by nature an optimist and don't think this is a turning point for multilateralism. The types of issues which warrant and demand multilateral responses, like the environment, affect everybody. The solutions cannot be generated by one state alone.

CHIEF JUSTICE SUNDARESH MENON.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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