On September 12, 2020, the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the Singapore Convention) will come into force. The Convention culminates three years of deliberations about international settlement enforcement between 85 member States, and supports the mediation process and its role in international commercial dispute resolution. It pioneers the direct enforcement of mediated settlement agreements (MSAs), and arose from the desire to address how to enforce settlements reached through the mediation process. 

Scope of Application

The Convention applies to international MSAs concluded in writing by parties to resolve an international commercial dispute. To be considered an international dispute at least two parties to the settlement agreement must have their places of business in different States.

The Convention does not apply to settlement agreements that:

relate to family, inheritance, or employment law
have been approved by a court or concluded in the course of proceedings before a court
are enforceable as a judgment in the State of that court
have been recorded and are enforceable as an arbitral award

Enforcing Mediated Settlement Agreements

The Convention requires a party relying on an MSA to supply the following to enforce it:

the settlement agreement signed by the parties
evidence that the settlement agreement was the result of mediation

Evidence that the settlement was the result of mediation could be the mediator’s signature on the settlement document, a document signed by the mediator indicating that the mediation was carried out, an attestation by the institution that administered the mediation, or, in the absence of these, any other evidence acceptable to the competent authority.

When Enforcement can be Refused

One of the six grounds for refusing to grant relief may be upheld if there is proof that, either

a party to the settlement was under some incapacity
the settlement is null and void or incapable of being performed under the law that the parties are bound by, is not binding or final, or has subsequently been modified
the obligations in the agreement have been performed or are incomprehensible
granting relief would oppose the terms of the settlement agreement
there was a serious breach by the mediator, or
the mediator failed to disclose evidence of his impartiality and independence to the detriment of a party

The competent authority of the Party to the Convention may also refuse to grant relief if it would be contrary to public policy of that Party; or the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by mediation under the law of that party.

Future Implications and Importance

This Convention promotes mediation, which under certain circumstances may be a more efficient method of dispute resolution than arbitration or litigation processes. However, to fall under the scope of this Convention, a mediator must assist parties in reaching its settlement agreement; thus, parties cannot only reach an agreement by themselves.

The Convention will enter into force six months after three member states have adopted this Convention. Fiji, Qatar and Singapore were the first states to adopt this Convention. Later, Belarus, and Saudi Arabia joined to the Convention.

The text of the Singapore Convention can be found here.