On 20 December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), passed a resolution to adopt the United Nations (UN) Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, and to name it after Singapore.
The Singapore Convention on Mediation is the first treaty under the auspices of the UN to be named after Singapore. The Convention, jointly organised by Singapore’s Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), will hold the signing ceremony in Singapore on 7 August 2019.
What is the Singapore Convention on Mediation?
The Singapore Convention on Mediation addresses the lack of an effective means to enforce cross-border mediated settlement agreements.
The Courts of contracting parties to the Convention can readily enforce the agreements and also invoke the Convention as a defence against a claim.
This will give businesses greater assurance that mediated settlement agreements can be relied upon to resolve cross-border commercial disputes, facilitating the growth of international commerce and promotes the use of mediation around the world.
The Convention will apply to international commercial settlement agreements resulting from mediation.
It will not apply to international settlement agreements concluded in the course of judicial or arbitral proceedings which are enforceable as a court judgment or arbitral award.
- It will also not apply to settlement agreements concluded for personal, family or household purposes by one of the parties (a consumer), as well as settlement agreements relating to family, inheritance or employment law.
The courts of a contracting party will be expected to handle applications either
To enforce an international settlement agreement which falls within the scope of the Convention
To allow a party to invoke the settlement agreement in order to prove that the matter has already been resolved, in accordance with its rules of procedure, and under the conditions laid down in the Convention.
The courts of a contracting party 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 the contracting party.
Background to the Convention
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”) is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law. UNCITRAL’s Working Group II (“WGII”) on Dispute Settlement has been working on instruments to provide for the cross-border enforcement of international commercial settlement agreements reached through mediation.
The United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Agreement (“the Convention”).
The amendments to the Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation (2002).
At the 51st Session of the UNCITRAL
- Final drafts of the Convention were approved.
- Resolution to name the Convention the “Singapore Convention on Mediation” was approved.
- The Commission subsequently recommended that the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) consider the draft convention with a view to adopting/authorising: (i) the Convention; (ii) for the signing ceremony of the Convention to be held in Singapore; and (iii) the nomenclature of the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”.
The United Nations General Assembly:
Adopted the Convention
Authorised the signing ceremony of the Convention to be held in Singapore
Authorised the nomenclature of the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”
Singapore welcomes other countries to be amongst the first signatories of the Convention on 7 August 2019, and to participate in the events which will be organised in conjunction with the signing ceremony.
Singapore played an important role in in bringing about the Convention as the chair of The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group II (WGII). The UNCITRAL WGII on Dispute Settlement has been working on instruments to provide for the cross-border enforcement of international commercial settlement agreements reached through mediation.
The Singapore delegation’s role as chair included handling of cross-border telecommunications with foreign delegations to assess international concerns, resolving of disputes, finalising the text and managing the divergent views of all the delegations. After three years of debate, the hard work finally cumulated in the Convention.
The Ministry of Law team and other government agencies also worked alongside stakeholders and the UNCITRAL, and Singapore’s effort in the entire process was recognised by the unanimous support of the UN for Singapore to host the signing of this convention and for the convention to be named the Singapore Convention of Mediation.