Tomorrow marks an important day for dispute resolution users as the Singapore Mediation Convention comes into force, just over a year after its signing ceremony on 7 August 2019. The UNCITRAL Working Group II’s aim to implement an international regime for the enforcement of mediated settlements broadly akin to the 1958 New York Convention for the enforcement of arbitral awards, has finally come to fruition after several years of dedicated effort to provide dispute resolution stakeholders with a tool that tackles speed, cost and efficiency.

The coming into force was triggered by Qatar becoming the third country to ratify the Convention on 12 March 2020 (after Singapore and Fiji on 25 February 2020). See our previous post on this here. To date, a total of 53 states have signed the Convention and a total of 5 states have either ratified (Singapore, Fiji, Qatar and Saudi Arabia on 5 May 2020) or approved (Belarus on 15 July 2020) the Convention. Asia’s signatories include three of its largest economies and 5 ASEAN nations. The signatories also include three of the world’s largest economies, the US, China and India.

At this stage, the Convention will only apply where a settlement agreement is sought to be enforced (or relied on as a defence) in the ratifying states – Singapore, Qatar, Fiji or Saudi Arabia or the approving states – Belarus (details of its listed reservations can be found here) . However, given that 53 countries have already taken the first step of signing the Convention (including China and the US), it seems likely that this list could soon increase substantially.

At the Global Pound Conference series, delegates in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America all revealed a desire for legislation or conventions to promote the recognition and enforcement of settlements. Despite the varied and complex legal and political frameworks in these regions, broad support indicates a common recognition that mediation can play an important role in resolving cross-border disputes. Many of those surveyed manage businesses and disputes across several borders, where legal regimes can vary from stable, tested and familiar to those that are only a decade old. The coming into force of the Singapore Mediation Convention is an answer to a call for regulation and certainty at a time when the pace of development intensifies through new trade treaties and investment, and massive initiatives such as the Belt and Road. Indeed, the Convention looks set to respond well to this demand and is likely to hail a turning point for the use of mediation in these developing regions. Commercial mediated settlements are expected to become globally enforceable as more countries ratify the Convention.

For more detail on when and how the new Convention will operate (including what qualifies as an ‘international’ settlement agreement), see our earlier posts here and here.

For commentary on some of the Convention’s more interesting features and opportunities for enforcement of international settlement agreements in ratifying States, please see an article by Jan O’Neill, Professional Support Lawyer, London, published on the Practical Law Dispute Resolution Blog here. Jan has also recently discussed the implications of the new Convention on a podcast with James South, Manager Director of CEDR. Click here to listen to the podcast.

You can find our guidance on multi-tiered dispute resolution clauses, dispute avoidance and improving conflict management here.