This article is the third in a four-part CPR summer series that examines ADR in a number of rapidly changing locales around the world. If you missed it, you can find the first post, about Colombia, here, and the second about Mexico here.
ADR in Taiwan: Strong Foundations and a Chance to Build
By Gideon Hanft, CPR Research Assistant and Ngutjiua Hijarunguru, CPR Student Intern
In 2013, research institute Business Environment Risk Intelligence S.A. (BERI) ranked Taiwan as the fourth-best investment environment globally. Taiwan’s largest trading partners are the world’s three largest economies, Japan, China and the United States, and, as a leader in technology production, Taiwan has a dynamic and expanding role in the global economy. Taiwan’s economic growth has corresponded with a growth in commercial litigation, but Taiwan’s government and cultural legacy has also built a strong ADR foundation and offers opportunities for further expansion.
Confucianism has historically cultivated an “anti-lawsuit” attitude, and this heritage has served as “fertile soil for the development of mediation.” However, Taiwan’s strong history of societally promoted mediation has not prevented a rapid expansion of civil litigation. Professor Yun-Hsien Diana Lin of National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan ascribes this development to the “increase in judicial staff…, the progress of economic development and the growing prevalence of education among Taiwanese people.” Despite this expansion of litigation, Taiwan’s government has continued to promote mediation as an alternative through two main avenues.
First, Taiwan has legislation that creates mandatory mediation through Article 403 of Taiwan’s Code of Civil Practice. As Salvatore Casabona, Associate Professor of Comparative Law & International Trade Law at University of Palermo, describes, “Originally provided only for small value claims, the range of civil dispute subjected to mandatory mediation were gradually broadened, including a variety of cases from neighbourhood and real property controversies to traffic accident and medical treatment ones.” This type of mediation is conducted in the courtroom by mediators appointed by the presiding judge. A settlement is legally enforced by the judge, but if mediation does not result in settlement litigation follows. Casabona’s analysis suggests Taiwanese litigants have been resistant to this mandatory mediation; for example, less than 1% of debt discharge cases that provoked mandatory mediation have seen mediation sustained. Nevertheless, the number of successfully sustained mediations has risen over time and this act’s expansion points to recognition of the value of ADR procedures.
The second type of mediation in Taiwan is not conducted through the court but, rather, similarly to mediations abroad, is conducted by outside institutions under mutually agreed upon procedures. For example, mediation under the Chinese Arbitration Association, Tapei (CAA) is regulated under the institution’s rules, passed October 2008, which parties may choose to use unless they mutually agree to other rules. Article 45 of Taiwan’s arbitration law specifies that an arbitrator can propose and accept a mediated settlement with legal enforceability.
Beyond these two main avenues, Taiwan has an additional type of out of court mediation that is more unique. This is called Town Mediation, and many see it as an outgrowth of the Confucian tradition. Regulated by the Town Mediation Act, Town Mediation was first passed in 1955 and this local process has been amended frequently since. Townships and administrative divisions maintain mediation committees of seven to fifteen to mediate civil disputes and minor criminal cases. This act specifies “Mediators are appointed by the mayor of township and county–administered city ‘from the men of eminent fairness, within the administrative district, who have legal knowledge or other expertise and good reputation.’” Mediators are often local elders and are not always lawyers. In recent years, amendments to the Town Mediation Act have increased the role of local courts in overseeing the committees and passed rules to reduce the appearance of bias.
Town mediation retains a distinctly local identity, with traditional mores playing a vital role in the local mediators’ attempts to resolve disputes. As Yun-Hsien Diana Lin, Associate Professor at the Institute of Law for Science & Technology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, writes, “Fairness must be judged in the context of…social relations instead of according to strict justice under the law.” Unlike court mediation, town mediation can only be entered into at the request of both parties, decisions are non-binding until certified by a local court, and the process is free of charge to both parties. Town mediation’s popularity has grown in recent years, especially in the context of minor criminal cases. The number of approved town mediation cases exceeded the number of sustained in-court mediations in 2010 and 96 percent of town mediation settlements brought before courts were approved in that year.
In addition to mediation, arbitration has become a more common method of dispute resolution in Taiwan. The leading arbitration institution is the CAA, founded in 1955. The CAA’s main services are arbitration and mediation conducted in Chinese and English. The CAA specializes in civil, commercial, international banking, construction, distribution, financial/investment, maritime, securities and transportation disputes. The arbitration act and rules governing CAA proceedings are the Republic of China Arbitration Act of 2002, modeled after the UNCITRAL Model Law of 1985, and the CAA Arbitration Rules.
While most arbitral proceeding in Taiwan are conducted under the auspices of the CAA, specialized bodies performing arbitrations include the Taiwan Construction Arbitration Association, the Labour Dispute Arbitration Association and the Chinese Engineering Arbitration Association.
Despite the expanded use of both town and court mediation, it is hard to say that they have kept up with the expansion of civil litigation. In 2008, the number of civil disputes filed with the Taiwanese District Court increased to 2.81 million from 1.37 million in 1998. While this litigious trend may be a concern, it also means there will likely be a greater market for ADR providers and educators in years to come.
In all, the ADR environment in Taiwan is promising. The growth of civil litigation has been met with governmental expansion of mandatory mediation, suggesting that Taiwan’s leaders are eager for an expansion of ADR. Town Mediation offers an interesting example of local receptiveness to ADR procedures, and judicial willingness to certify proceedings shows a recognition by judges that outside processes can effectively resolve disputes. With these strong foundations, there is room to build an ever stronger ADR culture. As Taiwan’s growing economy and increasingly strong economic ties have made it one of most important and dynamic markets in the world, expanding ADR there could lead to the more effective resolution of disputes in the rest of Asia and beyond.
Gideon Hanft, a research assistant at CPR, is entering his first year at Columbia Law School.
Ngutjiua Hijarunguru is a LLM graduate from the Center of the Study of Dispute Resolution at the University of Missouri-Columbia.