Following the public consultation on the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”), which ran from 2 February to 1 April 2022, the UK Government signed the treaty on 3 May 2023. Once the UK has implemented the Convention into domestic legislation and deposited the instrument of ratification, it will enter into force six months later as provided in Article 14.1 of the treaty. To date, 56 countries have signed the Singapore Convention, and 11 of the signatories have also ratified it.
The Singapore Convention on Mediation was adopted by UNCITRAL in 2019 as a multilateral treaty providing a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement and invocation of international settlement agreements resulting from the mediation of commercial disputes. Mediation is the most common form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and probably the quickest way of resolving disputes. As for the settlement of disputes, a neutral third party facilitates a negotiated agreement without any decision-making power.
There is a tendency in the UK to stimulate parties to mediate their arisen or potential disputes instead of litigating in courts, therefore, to immerse mediation as an integral step in the court process. In this regard, the Ministry of Justice’s Call for Evidence on Dispute Resolution in England and Wales set out the goals of the civil justice system to integrate dispute resolution processes, including resolving disputes consensually through mediation. Following this, the Government made proposals on the automatic/mandatory mediation of civil disputes valued up to £10,000 by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) as part of the court process. The latter is at the consultation stage.
By signing the Singapore Convention, the UK has demonstrated its serious outlook for becoming a leader in the promotion of mediation as an essential part of the civil justice system. In the absence of such an international treaty, there is a process to be followed for a settlement agreement to get enforced. A party would need to make a claim for breach of contract and get a judgment that is to be enforced first unless the terms of the settlement have been recorded in a “Tomlin order”.
With the UK’s membership to the Singapore Convention, international mediation agreements or iMSAs (settlement agreements qualifying under the Convention) as well as settlements will become directly enforceable without any further need to issue a claim for breach of contract or to litigate the case on the merits. Having the Singapore Convention together with the New York Arbitration Convention and Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements in its armoury will enhance the UK’s credibility as an attractive dispute resolution hub as well as promote its relations with global trading partners. Furthermore, membership in these fundamental Private International Law instruments will also have serious Brexit implications. Needless to say, the UK’s plans to ratify the Hague Judgments Convention significantly contribute to these ends (for more on this see the blogpost here: The Ball is Rolling: The UK to ratify the Hague Judgments Convention? – The Institute of International Shipping & Trade Law (IISTL) Blog.