United Nations treaty on cross-border mediation to be named after Singapore

United Nations treaty on cross-border mediation to be named after Singapore

Source: TODAY
Date Published: 24 Dec 2018
Author: Navene Elangovan

The Singapore Convention on Mediation will provide for the cross-border enforcement of mediated settlement agreements.

SINGAPORE — The United Nations has passed a resolution to adopt a new convention on mediation and name it after Singapore, a move that experts say is a nod to the Republic’s success in building a strong hub for international dispute resolution.

The Singapore Convention on Mediation, the first UN treaty to be named after the Republic, will provide for the cross-border enforcement of mediated settlement agreements.

The UN had passed a resolution to adopt the convention on Thursday (Dec 20) and will hold a signing ceremony in August next year in Singapore.

“This is the first UN treaty carrying the Singapore name. It is a singular honour for Singapore and will further cement Singapore’s place on the world map for international dispute resolution,” said Singapore’s Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam.

In a statement on Friday (Dec 21), Singapore’s Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said that the convention will give businesses greater assurance that mediated settlement agreements can be relied upon to resolve multinational commercial disputes.

Being one of the first signatories of the convention also sends a strong statement of Singapore’s commitment to trade, commerce and investment, MinLaw added.

With this latest UN resolution, Singapore joins the ranks of other cities that have had famous conventions named after them, such as the Geneva Convention signed in 1929, which sets the global standards for human rights, and the Paris Agreement, which is known as the key document seeking to combat climate change.

Mr Adrian Chan, a senior partner at law firm Lee & Lee, said that the naming of the convention is a significant honour for Singapore, and cements the country’s position in the burgeoning area of international mediation.

“The naming of UN conventions is seldom arbitrary or cosmetic and it confers on our country a tremendous privilege, while also expressly acknowledging that we have arrived as a leading international dispute resolution centre, which has been our aspiration,” he said.

Singapore Management University law professor Nadja Alexander said that signatories to the convention, which will include Singapore, “are making a statement that they see mediation as a credible and important way for businesses to sort out their disputes across borders, and that each of the signatories will recognise the outcomes of the mediation agreement”.

Unlike arbitration, which relies on a third party to impose a binding decision based on the law and facts of a dispute, mediation allows each party involved to freely participate in the process and express their views.

SMU associate professor of law Dorcas Quek said that mediation usually results in higher compliance rates with the final agreement. It is also less expensive than resorting to a court trial and helps individuals settle their disputes more quickly.

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing senior consultant Rajan Menon added that the potential for disputes has increased significantly with greater cross-border developments such as new trade arrangements and projects like China’s Belt and Road initiative, which seeks to attract foreign investments.

It has been well-recognised that trying to resolve cross-border disputes through a court process, and then trying to enforce a court judgment in a foreign country can be “a very difficult, costly, challenging and time consuming process fraught with many difficult and technical issues”, he said.

“Mediation is a much simplified process of dispute resolution and the Singapore Convention will… make the process of mediation and the enforcement of a mediated settlement much easier as compared to a court adversorial process and judgment,” he added.

Prof Alexander, who participated in the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group on Dispute Settlement this year, said that the naming of the Convention after Singapore had received “overwhelming support” from the international community.

The UNCITRAL is the legal body of the UN which oversees international trade law. Singapore had chaired the Working Group on Dispute Settlement over the last three years in the lead-up to the passing of the resolution.

Mr Chan noted that the success of the convention will ultimately depend on the number of states which sign it.

He cited as an example the New York Convention, which recognises and enforces arbitral awards across borders in any country that has ratified it.

“It has nearly 160 state parties to the convention and still attracts sign-ups to this day, with Sudan becoming a party earlier this year. It is hoped that the Singapore Convention will face an equal level of success,” he said.

Prof Quek said that it would be good if the Singapore Convention could raise the popularity of mediation as a valid mode of dispute resolution around the world.

She added: “The close association with Singapore has a deep significance as it demonstrates Singapore’s strong institutional support of the mediation process.”

The naming should also help increase the prominence and attraction of Singapore as a centre for mediation and the resolution of cross-border disputes, she said.

With the convention due to be signed in Singapore next August, Prof Alexander said that governments around the world will now have to think about signing on to the treaty, and how they are going to review and amend their laws to reflect the convention.

“The naming bodes well for Singapore," she said. "It is a time for celebration. Now is the time to look ahead and get going.”

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