SIArb launched its Beyond Arbitration: Global Perspectives lecture series in November 2020 with the purpose of giving its diverse membership which spans all geographical regions and sectors the pleasure of listening to eminent speakers on the larger issues facing our world today. We were very fortunate to have none other than Singapore’s beloved statesman and diplomat, Professor Tommy Koh, deliver the inaugural lecture.
The topic is timely as this year is the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. It has been a year of upheavals, not assisted by a retreat from multilateralism when the world needs collaboration in the face of health and environmental crises. Professor Tommy Koh has been Singapore’s Ambassador to numerous countries, including the United States. His contributions are too many to list, but one may recall his sterling leadership as President of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea which gave the world the important Law of the Sea Convention. It is testament to his reputation that his lecture was attended by many beyond Singapore and by dignitaries such as His Excellency Ambassador Ahn Youngjip of Korea.
Prof. Koh listed the three biggest failures of the UN, namely its failure to prevent armed conflicts, its inability to protect minorities and the dysfunctional Security Council. On the other hand, he pointed to the essential role of the UN, listing seven crucial successes, among them creating a safer world for smaller countries and building a new world order based on the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes. The network of UN agencies covers all areas for the improvement of our health and quality of life.
The audience contributed probing and thoughtful questions, ranging from broader questions on how US-China tensions are likely to shape the global political order to more specific questions on the efficiency and staffing of the UN Secretariat. Prof Koh gamely answered these questions in his usual candid and engaging manner. SIArb is indeed very pleased and grateful that Prof Koh and the many participants have given this new lecture series such a marvellous start.
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Chan Leng Sun SC - Immediate Past President, SIArb; Essex Court Chambers Duxton (Singapore Group Practice)
We are pleased to reproduce the speech by Prof. Tommy Koh delivered at SIArb’s inaugural “Beyond Arbitration: Global Perspectives” Lecture on 16 Nov 2020.