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Singapore Convention on Mediated Settlement Agreements Comes Into Force

by Tomas Furlong, Priya Aswani, Gitta Satryani

September 2020

Tomorrow marks an important day for dispute resolution users as the Singapore Mediation Convention comes into force, just over a year after its signing ceremony on 7 August 2019. The UNCITRAL Working Group II’s aim to implement an international regime for the enforcement of mediated settlements broadly akin to the 1958 New York Convention for the enforcement of arbitral awards, has finally come to fruition after several years of dedicated effort to provide dispute resolution stakeholders with a tool that tackles speed, cost and efficiency.

The coming into force was triggered by Qatar becoming the third country to ratify the Convention on 12 March 2020 (after Singapore and Fiji on 25 February 2020). See our previous post on this here. To date, a total of 53 states have signed the Convention and a total of 5 states have either ratified (Singapore, Fiji, Qatar and Saudi Arabia on 5 May 2020) or approved (Belarus on 15 July 2020) the Convention. Asia’s signatories include three of its largest economies and 5 ASEAN nations. The signatories also include three of the world’s largest economies, the US, China and India.

At this stage, the Convention will only apply where a settlement agreement is sought to be enforced (or relied on as a defence) in the ratifying states – Singapore, Qatar, Fiji or Saudi Arabia or the approving states – Belarus (details of its listed reservations can be found here). However, given that 53 countries have already taken the first step of signing the Convention (including China and the US), it seems likely that this list could soon increase substantially.

At the Global Pound Conference series, delegates in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America all revealed a desire for legislation or conventions to promote the recognition and enforcement of settlements. Despite the varied and complex legal and political frameworks in these regions, broad support indicates a common recognition that mediation can play an important role in resolving cross-border disputes. Many of those surveyed manage businesses and disputes across several borders, where legal regimes can vary from stable, tested and familiar to those that are only a decade old. The coming into force of the Singapore Mediation Convention is an answer to a call for regulation and certainty at a time when the pace of development intensifies through new trade treaties and investment, and massive initiatives such as the Belt and Road. Indeed, the Convention looks set to respond well to this demand and is likely to hail a turning point for the use of mediation in these developing regions. Commercial mediated settlements are expected to become globally enforceable as more countries ratify the Convention.

For more detail on when and how the new Convention will operate (including what qualifies as an ‘international’ settlement agreement), see our earlier posts here and here.

For commentary on some of the Convention’s more interesting features and opportunities for enforcement of international settlement agreements in ratifying States, please see an article by Jan O’Neill, Professional Support Lawyer, London, published on the Practical Law Dispute Resolution Blog here. Jan has also recently discussed  the implications of the new Convention on a podcast with James South, Manager Director of CEDR. Click here to listen to the podcast.

You can find our guidance on multi-tiered dispute resolution clauses, dispute avoidance and improving conflict management here.

Signatories as at 10 September 2020: Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Kingdom of Eswatini, Fiji, Gabon, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Montenegro, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Palau, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, South Korea, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, the US, Uruguay and Venezuela.

 

 

 

 

Tomas Furlong

Tomas is a member of Herbert Smith Freehills' Southeast Asia disputes practice. He has a broad commercial practice covering arbitration and cross-border litigation, with a focus on the energy and TMT sectors. He has recent experience of commercial fraud, joint venture, contract and investment treaty claims.


Tomas acts as counsel (advocate) and arbitrator and has experience of matters under the SIAC, HKIAC, ICC, LCIA and CIETAC arbitration rules. He relocated to Asia in 2014 after practicing in London, and has also acted in multi-jurisdictional matters including proceedings in Singapore, Hong Kong, India, the PRC, England, Thailand and Mauritius. He is a member of the firm’s India and Philippines desks.


Tomas is recognised by the leading directories, including as a Next Generation Partner (Legal 500) and Arbitration Future Leader (WWL). Client feedback includes "an extremely talented lawyer with excellent judgement and impressive advocacy skills."

Priya Aswani

Priya is a professional support lawyer in Herbert Smith Freehills' Asia dispute resolution practice. She has led various HSF branded publications including the Guide to Dispute Resolution in Asia Pacific, the Guide to Privilege in Asia Pacific, the Independent Insurance Authority Guide, and the Hong Kong Contract Disputes Practical Guide series. She is an editor of the HSF Asia Disputes know-how blog, http://hsfnotes.com/asiadisputes/. She also publishes briefings and articles on the latest legal developments, and delivers seminars and workshops on commercial litigation, mediation and advocacy. Priya has also contributed to various external publications including the Hong Kong Civil Procedure, Getting the Deal Through Guide to Litigation Funding, Chitty on Contracts (Hong Kong), Second Edition of The European Lawyer Reference on International Fraud and Asset Tracing, Hong Kong Civil Justice Reform Practice Manual and the PLC Labour and Employee Benefits Handbook.

 

Priya is a Hong Kong qualified solicitor and has previously acted on a wide range of commercial disputes including contractual and shareholders' disputes, insolvency, employment, the administration of an estate, and recovery of funds through asset tracing.

Gitta Satryani

Gitta is a member of the firm's market-leading Asia dispute resolution practice, based in Singapore. She specialises in complex cross-border disputes with particular expertise in international commercial arbitration, investment treaty arbitration, and public international law. Gitta advises commercial entities, states and SOEs on a broad range of issues relating to cross-border projects including dispute avoidance strategies and investment structuring.

 

Gitta has a particular focus on disputes involving Indonesia, and works closely with Herbert Smith Freehills' associated firm Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung, to advise clients on disputes and dispute-related aspects of transactional work relating to their investments in Indonesia.

 

Gitta is ranked as an Arbitration Future Leader by Who's Who Legal (2017-19) and an up and coming / next generation lawyer by other leading directories. She has been described as "an impressive lawyer with unique skills in the market" and "very pragmatic and business-oriented in terms of suggesting strategies to resolve a problem and providing good practical guidance" (Chambers & Partners 2020 (Dispute Resolution: Arbitration (Singapore)).

The views expressed by authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc., Arbitrate.com or of reviewing editors.
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