By: The Straits Times
, Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Washington | 11 Apr 2014
Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh will be recognised as one of the world's top negotiators at a ceremony in Harvard University on Thursday.
Prof Koh is the first Singaporean to receive the "Great Negotiator Award", given out by the programme on negotiation at Harvard Law School, which comprises of students and faculty from the university as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.
Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam congratulated Prof Koh on the award, noting that he has always served with "great distinction":
"Tommy has displayed the tremendous skills and typical grace of the consummate negotiator. The award cannot be more well-deserved."
There have been 10 other recipients of the award since its inception in 2000.
They include former US secretary of state James Baker, who is best known for his negotiations on German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall and former US senator George Mitchell, who was instrumental in ending decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.
For Prof Koh, perhaps the most significant of his achievements, over the course of a storied diplomatic career, is the successful conclusion of the United Nation's Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in 1982. The complex negotiation involving some 188 countries still stands as one of the best examples of how to conduct multi-lateral talks on a potentially divisive issue and continues to be a case study taught in negotiation classes.
Prof Koh was also the chief negotiator for Singapore in talks leading to the US-Singapore free trade agreement in 2004 and played pivotal roles in resolving two separate territorial disputes with Malaysia, the most recent one being the 2008 case involving sovereignty of Pedra Branca.
As part of the award proceedings, the Ambassador will be interviewed by two panels of academics about his work and will later attend an award dinner in the university.