29 August 2019

On 7 August 2019, the Singapore Ministry of Law announced that the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, also known as the Singapore Convention on Mediation (“Singapore Convention”), opened for signature in Singapore. Forty-six States signed the Singapore Convention on 7 August 2019. Singapore, represented by Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam, SC, was the first signatory. The United States, China, India and South Korea were also among the 46 States which signed the treaty on 7 August 2019.

Background

The Singapore Convention on Mediation, the first UN treaty to be named after Singapore, was adopted by consensus at the UN General Assembly on 20 December 2018 which also authorised the signing ceremony of the Convention in Singapore on 7 August 2019.

The Singapore Convention provides for the cross-border enforcement of mediated settlement agreements, give businesses greater certainty and assurance, and facilitate international trade and commerce. Businesses will benefit from mediation as an additional dispute resolution option to litigation and arbitration in settling cross-border disputes.

Overview of Singapore Convention

The Singapore Convention applies to international settlement agreements resulting from mediation, concluded by parties to resolve a commercial dispute. Parties to the Singapore Convention will be obliged to enforce such agreements if they meet the following criteria:

  • The settlement agreement is international in that at least two parties have their place of business in different countries or the country where the settlement agreement is to be performed, or the country with which the agreement is most closely connected, is different to the parties’ place of business.
  • The settlement agreement resulted from mediation and is concluded in writing by the parties. Mediation is defined in the Singapore Convention as a process, irrespective of the expression used or the basis upon which the process was carried out, whereby the parties attempt to reach an amicable settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a third person or persons (that is, the mediator) lacking the authority to impose a solution upon the parties to the dispute.
  • The agreement does not fall within the excluded category of settlement agreements, including agreements that are enforceable as a judgment or as an arbitral award and those concluded for personal, family or household purposes.
  • None of the specified grounds to refuse enforcement, such as incapacity of a party to the settlement agreement, apply.

Parties to the Singapore Convention shall empower their courts to handle applications to enforce a settlement agreement in accordance with the procedure set out therein. Courts will also be expected to allow a party to invoke a settlement agreement, in order to prove that a matter has already been resolved by a settlement agreement. Courts are able to refuse to grant relief on specified grounds as set out in the Singapore Convention, including incapacity of a party and serious breach of standards by the conciliator which caused a party to enter into a settlement agreement.

UNCITRAL Academy

During the ceremony which opened the Singapore Convention for signature, Singapore also concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN for the building of an UNCITRAL Academy in the country. The Academy will, among other things, organise future instalments of the Singapore Convention Conference.

The next Singapore Convention Conference is scheduled for 1 September 2020.

Reference materials

Materials relating to the Singapore Convention are available on the following websites:

Singapore Convention website (www.singaporeconvention.org)

Ministry of Law website (www.mlaw.gov.sg)

Ministry of Finance website (www.mof.gov.sg)

Prime Minister’s Office website (www.pmo.gov.sg)

 

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