On 7 August 2019, a signing ceremony was held in Singapore for the new United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, known colloquially as the Singapore Convention. The Singapore Convention is the result of several years of meticulous negotiation and drafting work by 85 states with the aid of 35 international governmental and non-governmental organisations. This was done within the framework of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group (WG) II, chaired by Singapore.

Forty-six states, including the US, China and India, signed the Singapore Convention in an affirmative show of support for the broader, formalised use of mediation in cross-border disputes. By doing so, a major step has been taken toward the creation of a legal regime to promote and facilitate mediation on an international scale, and to safeguard the efficient enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation.

In the lead up to the 7 August ceremony, speculation began to circulate that the Singapore Convention has the potential to impact international mediation in the same way that the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards, known as the New York Convention, impacted arbitration. Indeed, the host delegation from Singapore promoted it as having exactly that purpose. The New York Convention began with 24 signatories in 1958, around half the number of states that have signed on to the Singapore Convention, and now has 160 contracting states. Today, the New York Convention underpins the entire complex international commercial arbitration legal system. But further, even though the New York Convention purports in Article 1 to apply to commercial disputes, 60 years on, it is also seen as applying to disputes involving state parties.

Oct-Dec 2019 issue