Singapore Convention on mediation rises hopes for a uniform international encorcement framework on mediation agreements
In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, by consensus, the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, recommended that the Convention be known as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation” (the “Singapore Convention” or “Convention”), and authorised the signing ceremony of the Convention to be held in Singapore on
7 August 2019.
The Singapore Convention will facilitate international trade and commerce by enabling disputing parties to easily enforce and invoke settlement agreements across borders. Businesses will benefit from mediation as an additional dispute resolution option to litigation and arbitration in settling cross-border disputes.
What is the Singapore Convention on Mediation?
A uniform and efficient framework for international settlement agreements resulting from mediation
The Singapore Convention applies to international settlement agreements resulting from mediation, concluded by parties to resolve a commercial dispute. It provides an efficient and harmonised framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation and for allowing parties to invoke such agreements.
The Singapore Convention has been designed to become an essential instrument in the facilitation of international trade and in the promotion of mediation as an alternative and effective method of resolving trade disputes. It ensures that a settlement reached by parties becomes binding and enforceable in accordance with a simplified and streamlined procedure. It thereby contributes to strengthening access to justice and the rule of law.
Mediation is known for improving efficiency of dispute resolution and flexibility. The mediator’s role is not to adjudicate, but rather to facilitate discussions between disputing parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. The mediation process is more flexible, and in many instances, more cost and time efficient than other dispute resolution processes such as litigation and arbitration.
Until the introduction of the Singapore Convention however, an often-cited challenge to the use of mediation was the lack of an efficient and harmonised framework for cross-border enforcement of settlement agreements resulting from mediation. It was in response to this need that the Singapore Convention was developed and adopted by the United Nations.
The Convention contributes to the development of a mature, rule-based global commercial system. The primary goals of the Convention are to:
- facilitate international trade; and
- promote the use of mediation for the resolution of cross-border commercial disputes.
The Convention applies to international commercial settlement agreements resulting from mediation.
- It does not apply to settlement agreements that are enforceable as a judgment or as an arbitral award.
- It also does not apply to settlement agreements concluded for personal, family or household purposes , or relating to family, inheritance or employment law.
The courts of a Party to the Convention are expected to handle applications:
- To enforce a settlement agreement in accordance with its rules of procedure and under the conditions laid down in the Convention.
- To allow a party to invoke the settlement agreement in accordance with its rules of procedure and under the conditions laid down in the Convention, in order to prove that the matter was already resolved by the settlement agreement.
The courts of a Party to the Convention may refuse to grant relief on the grounds laid down in the Convention, including:
- If a party to the settlement agreement was under incapacity.
- If the settlement agreement is not binding, null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed under the law which it is subjected to.
- If there was a serious breach by the conciliator of standards applicable to the conciliator, without which breach that party would not have entered into the settlement agreement.
- If granting relief would be contrary to the public policy of that Party.