46 Nations Sign UN Mediation Convention in Singapore
The United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (‘Singapore Convention’) was formally signed on August 7, 2019. The Convention sets requirements for reliance on settlement agreements, standards for enforcing the agreements, and grounds for refusing to grant relief.
The Convention applies specifically to settlement of “international” commercial disputes. It does not apply to consumer disputes. It also expressly does not apply to settlement agreements that have been recorded as arbitral awards or approved by a court.
Supporters are hoping the Singapore Convention will give businesses confidence to settle international disputes through mediation – that it will increase global acceptance and enforcement of mediated settlements, particularly in states with different legal social and economic traditions. It echoes the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which was a catalyst for modern international commercial arbitration.
Critics say the new Convention may impose additional burdens in states such as the United States, Canada, and other western jurisdictions which already have well-established commercial mediation traditions. For example, Article 4 of the Convention requires evidence that a settlement agreement “resulted from mediation”, such as attestation by the mediator or an administering body. Concerns have also been raised about the grounds for refusing enforcement of a mediated agreement set out in Article 5, since voluntary settlement agreements are fundamentally different from arbitral awards or court orders.
Nevertheless, the initial response to the Convention has generally been positive, with many of the world’s largest economies, including the United States, China, India and many Asian countries, signing on the first day. (The Convention will come into force 6 months after it has been formally ratified by three of the signatories – and in individual states 6 months after those states have ratified.)
Others, including Canada, the UK, Australia and the European Union, have not yet signed. As with the arbitration convention, if Canada does accede to the Convention, each of the provinces could decide to opt in or not. If Canada does join, it should benefit Canadian IP owners and other international traders by helping them enforce mediated settlement agreements in other member states and by giving their counterparts confidence that such agreements will be enforced here.