Following a consultation, the UK government announced it will sign the Singapore Convention, thereby renewing its commitment to international commercial mediation and the United Kingdom’s position as a world-leading center for dispute resolution.
The UK government recently published its response to the consultation on the United Nations’ Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the Singapore Convention). The Singapore Convention is a private international law agreement which aims to create a uniform and efficient framework for the international recognition and enforcement of settlement agreements resulting from mediation.
At present in the United Kingdom, any such mediated settlements have the status of contracts. Accordingly, should one party subsequently refuse to comply with its terms, further court proceedings would be required to force compliance—potentially in foreign jurisdictions.
Under the Singapore Convention, parties will be able to apply directly to the courts of any signatory states to enforce the settlement terms without needing to commence fresh actions for breach of contract. The greater ease of cross-border enforcement and recognition of mediated settlement agreements promotes mediation as an international dispute resolution method, and therefore facilitates international trade and commerce between signatory countries.
In the right circumstances, mediation can offer a cost-effective dispute resolution process and save on management time, lost productivity, and legal fees. It can also be more conducive to the preservation of business and trading relationships than alternative methods such as litigation or arbitration.
Since the Singapore Convention opened for signatures in August 2019, 55 countries have signed, including the United States, China, Singapore, and almost all of the UK’s significant global commercial partners.
Joining key trading partners such as the United States, China, and 18 fellow Commonwealth nations as a signatory of the Singapore Convention will enhance the UK’s attractiveness as a place to do business as well as its reputation as an international dispute resolution hub.
There are certain conditions which must be complied with in order for the Singapore Convention to apply to a mediated settlement agreement in the UK. These include, for example, that any agreement must be in writing, relate to a dispute that is international in nature, and be signed by the mediator. Accordingly, even once the UK is a signatory, it is advisable for parties to take legal advice as to ensure that any mediated settlement agreement would benefit from the Singapore Convention.
The UK government has said that it will sign the Singapore Convention as soon as possible, but has not yet provided specific information with respect to timing.
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