12 August 2019 

On 7 August 2019, 46 States including the United States, China, India, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore have signed the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, also known as the Singapore Convention on Mediation.  This is the highest number of first-day signatories of a UN trade convention, and more States are expected to be signatories to this Convention in the near future.  A full list of 46 signatory States are provided at the end of this post. 

Before the adoption of the Singapore Convention on Mediation, the often-cited challenge to the use of international mediation was the lack of an efficient and harmonized framework for cross-border enforcement of settlement agreements resulting from mediation.  Thus, the aim of the Singapore Convention on Mediation is to implement an international regime for the enforcement of settlement agreements reached through mediation, broadly akin to the Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Convention, and to ensure that a settlement reached by parties becomes binding and enforceable in accordance with a simplified and streamlined procedure. 

When will the Singapore Convention on Mediation apply? (Scope of application) 

The Singapore Convention on Mediation applies to settlement agreements which meet all the following criteria: 

  1. The settlement agreement reached between the parties must result from mediation. 
  2. The settlement agreement must be concluded in writing. 
  3. The dispute between the parties must be of commercial nature. 
  4. The dispute must be on international nature (e.g., at least two parties to the settlement agreement have their place of business in different States). 

The Singapore Convention on Mediation explicitly excludes its application from settlement agreements: 

  1. Concluded to resolve disputes arising from personal, family or household purposes, or 
  2. Related to family, inheritance or employment law, or 
  3. That have been approved by or conclude before a court, or 
  4. That are enforceable as a judgment in the State of that court, or 
  5. That have been recorded and are enforceable as an arbitral award. 

For the settlement agreements falling under its scope, the Singapore Convention on Mediation requires Party States to enforce such settlement agreements in accordance with their rules of procedure and under the conditions laid down in the Convention. 

On the other hand, the Singapore Convention on Mediation also provides grounds for refusing to recognize settlement agreements.  For instance, settlement agreement of which some of its terms are void can be refused when a party relying on the settlement agreement is seeking relief.  A serious breach by the mediator of standards applicable to the mediator is also a ground for refusal.  

What is Next? 

The Singapore Convention on Mediation will come into force six months after at least three signatory States have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Convention.  Given the number of States signed the Convention on the first day, this is likely to be achieved in the very near future. 

Like the New York Convention, the Singapore Convention on Mediation requires implementation in domestic legislation, which may certainly differ between jurisdiction.  It will be interesting to see how practices under the Singapore Convention on Mediation are going to be developed in the ASEAN region where five countries (Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore) have already signed the Convention. 

VCI Legal 

Full list of signatories as at 7 August 2019: 

Afghanistan,  Belarus,  Belize,  Brunei,  Chile,  China,  Colombia,  Congo,  Democratic Republic of Congo,  Eswatini,  Fiji,  Georgia,  Grenada,  Haiti,  Honduras,  India,  Iran,  Israel,  Jamaica,  Jordan,  Kazakhstan,  Laos,  Malaysia,  Maldives,  Mauritius,  Montenegro,  Nigeria,  North Macedonia,  Palau,  Paraguay,  Philippines,  Qatar,  Republic of Korea,  Samoa,  Saudi Arabia,  Serbia,  Sierra Leone,  Singapore,  Sri Lanka,  Timor-Leste,  Turkey,  Uganda,  Ukraine,  USA,  Uruguay,  Venezuela.


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