All roads lead to PeaceBuilding. Member Spotlight: Anil Changaroth

All things considered, everything we do in our lives is centered around Peace Building. In my case, this often includes getting up early in  the morning; off exercising and trekking and thereafter sitting down for a hearty breakfast (both often with family and great buddies from the very many stages in my life); heading to work (whether it be at home – often the new norm, or in the office) and  managing the needs/concerns of clients; hanging out after a long day’s work with family and friends; often shifting into the very many non-work related activities for clubs, institutions, organisations, societies, and the community; and most importantly making time of the family – thoroughly enjoying all of these as it brings peace and harmony.

Introduction to Anil

Anil Changaroth is an accredited Mediator, Adjudicator, Arbitrator (Fellow), Conflict Avoidance, Dispute Resolution, Restorative Justice, and Online Dispute Resolution Partitioner – all of which he was trained in along with Investment State Mediation and Arbitration while being on the panel of several institutions including the Chartered, Singapore and Philippines Institutes of Arbitrators, the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) and Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration SCIA); in Restorative Justice; being trained as a Peace Builder (in Global Peacebuilder Certificate (with the Mediators Beyond Borders International); in Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EQ) coaching; and being the Country Representative (Singapore) for the ADR ODR International and Dispute Resolution Board Foundation.

Anil qualified and is admitted as an Advocate & Solicitor of Singapore (1995); a Solicitor of England and Wales (2009); qualified as Barrister at Law (Middle Temple of England & Wales (1993); and holds a Master of Science in Construction Law & ArbitrationKings College London & National University of Singapore (2006). Anil’s career spanning Asia Pacific in Singapore Law practice, international arbitration practice, in house as General Counsel and currently leading ChangAroth Chambers LLC (that focuses on Appropriate Dispute Resolution involving infrastructure, building, and construction projects and most aspects of Commercial, Civil, Criminal and Corporate Front End Advisory) and ChangAroth  InterNational Consultancy (that consults on infrastructure, construction, and investment treaty projects, provides appropriate dispute resolution services through its subsidiaries ODRasia (servicing Asia) & ODRanz (servicing Oceania) deals with online dispute resolution platforms). His first career before graduating with an LLB Hon from the University of Buckingham (UK – 1992) was as an Infantry Officer for five years with the Singapore Armed Forces (1983-8).

Empowered while being Inspired

In Anil’s case, inspiration to practice Conflict Avoidance and Dispute Resolution really developed over his 25 years legal career. While he has practiced mediation for well over 20 years, his decision to be trained specifically in mediation skills with the Singapore Mediation Centre and coaching/training for the Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy led him on a path of appreciating the foundation of mediation and how it ultimately leads to Peace Building. He often is reminded and shares the quote accredited to Abraham Lincoln (the 16th president of the Unites States) – Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise wherever you can. As a Peacemaker the lawyer has the superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

While very much a Dispute Resolution litigator/practitioner, he often shares his case experiences to encourage clients to resolve their conflicts and disputes consensually. In a dispute that had his client facing a claim of over S$ 3 million and insisting that not a cent would be paid by his client to the Claimant, Anil took his client (in Mediation) from ground zero, to considering whether to accept the Claimant’s proposal of paying S$ 300,000, to finally settling the matter at S$ 80,000 by way of 10 installments. In arriving at this, Anil’s answer to his client query about the potential loss in legal fees that Anil would otherwise have invoiced if the matter proceeded to trial – was that The issue of my fee is very simple. If we do not settle today, 6 months down the road we are going to go to trial with me invoicing you for possibly S$ 200, 000. While I would be very happy, either you or the Claimant will not be happy with the adjudicated decision of the Court at the end of the trial. Whereas with this settlement, you’d go off to share your success with four of your friends, who would themselves share the same story with another 4 and so on. The potential of possibly assisting 6 to 10 potential new clients, could well equate to almost the same fees but more importantly, the shared experiences of Peace Building at its essence.”

For Anil, the process of appreciation and understanding of Mediation as an Appropriate Dispute Resolution (no longer simply Alternate) mechanism, came several years into his practice and this coupled with several years of lecturing, training, and workshops both domestically and international. These ultimately led to his 2019 book Resolving Disputes, a Guide to the Options for the Appropriate Dispute Resolution. Anil has also been in the forefront of the international developments in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) – including with his articles (both introducing and developing) published in 2016 and 2019 in the Asian Journal of Mediation, participation with Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Collaborative Framework for ODR final working group meetings in May 2019 in Japan before the Framework was launched in August 2019, and currently on  the Ministry of Law Singapore’s Advisory Member (pioneer) on the Industry Engagement and Advisory Group (IEAG) for the Legal Tech Platform.

Rotary and MBBI

As for his involvement with Mediators Beyond Borders International“MBBI caught my attention in mid 2021” Anil says. “I signed up with it as soon as I realized its close ties with Rotary (that I have been a part of since 2009). It was not too long thereafter that I was, at the very kind invitation of the fascinating Suzanna (Suzi) Norbeck JD, onboard several of the MBBI committees – working with incredible people from all over the world with such diverse background and culture and yet with deep rooted passion for all things related to Mediation he adds, while also praising the incredible members of MBBI – matured and professional efficiency with which the virtual meetings are organized, held and completed within an hour. The experience with MBBI has given me a fresh lease on the world of appropriate dispute resolution – crystalizing my believe that it is all PeaceBuilding at its essence. The experience with MBBI has given me a fresh new lease on the world of appropriate dispute resolution – crystalizing my believe that it’s all PeaceBuilding at its essence”.

With Rotary District 3310, Anil has been a Rotarian of the Rotary Club of Pandan Valley, Singapore since 2009 and has since 2017 been active of several of the District committees (including for its 2021-22 term – co chair of the Rotaract Committee and on 4 other committees). Anil’s experiences from these engagements, through MBBI, and very interestingly Rotary International’s President Elect Jennifer Jones’s call for Rotarians to embrace change that also means embracing new innovative or cause-based clubs, toengage our members so they love their clubs and their Rotary experience” and ultimately “Imagine, a world that deserves our best where we get up each day knowing that we can make a difference, will soon see Anil on a new and exciting venture with his Rotary journey – embracing Peace and Harmony In Service. As its be quoted – The best way to predict your future is to create it (Abraham Lincoln).

Culture, Community, and DEI 

Interestingly, Anil was born and grew up in Singapore, with parents who both immigrated from the India state of Kerala. With Malayalam as his native language, his father had the foresight to pick Mandarin – the Chinese dialect, as Anil’s 2nd languages in school (with Malay and Tamil – a South Indian Language being the other two 2nd languages available all studying in Singapore). Having also picked up Malay that was initially also taught as the National language up till the mid 1970s and Tamil from the very many movies his mother used to watch (while Anil and his brothers often being the ‘TV remote’), Anil is now fluent conversationally in Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and Malayalam.

With Anil’s pro bono legal counselling work, being conversant in all of these languages has been an asset especially since 1996 in his home town of Jurong Town of the Honourable Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. The legal counselling work has over the years been very humbling experience that connects Anil far more to the community. As part of Law Society of Singapore’s Ad Hoc Probono Services Assistance Scheme, Anil was in 2019 awarded Probono Champion. All of these were pretty much founded on what Mahatma Gandhi (Father of Modern India – 1896 – 1948) said – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of Others”.

Anil’s views on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) have largely been moulded from these experiences with his community – including with a greater appreciation of the cultural nuances of the vesting diverse Singaporean diaspora. While by no means an expert in DEI, he simply considers Diversity as understanding and appreciation, Equity as recognition and application and Inclusion as the positive actions.

Everything Being Connected 

Every single experience, engagement, and/or undertaking that Anil had been involved with and continues to embark on (though may in theory seem unrelated), are fundamentally and ultimately connected towards Peace Building. Interesting, his recent training in emotional quotient, has brough him renewed insights – Anil recalls that When I first started in 1995 as a litigation practitioner, it was often adversarial and challenging. But eventually, especially with Restorative Justice and Emotional Quotient training, one learns the true art of managing people, their emotions, differences, conflicts, and disputes”.

Enviroment and Sustainabilty Anil’s involvement with several clubs, institutions, organisation and societies includes recently as founding and board member of The Circle of Human Sustainability, a society formed by a group of very passionate professional to bring together scientists, sociologists, economists and built environment professionals – to look at sustainability holistically and to work towards a balanced economic system that is not reliant on growth and enables ecologically responsible behaviour. This too is at its core is peace and harmony with the nature and the environment we live in.

 Power of Positivity

It was mid-way through Anil legal career that (as a result of a very tough year in international practice) that Anil came to appreciate the power of Positivity – in fact it was just around the time he started on his Rotary journey that he truly figured out that with all things in life, while you are entitled to be disappointed or even angry, those feelings must be short-lived and we need to turn to look at the Positives that present constantly or even on the horizon. This practice and realizations are truly all encompassing and empowering and works all the time.

Anil believes that this positive attitude coupled with Peace Building being at the core is greatly influenced by the nature of his awe-inspiring wife Shyamala, his 3 sons Keshav, Akshay and Tejas and ultimately what Bob Marley (the Jamaican musician – 1945 – 1981) is quoted on – The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him Positively”.

Article by Maciej Witek, MBBI Writer