Signing of the Singapore Convention

Key facts about the Singapore Convention

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam (seated) at the the signing ceremony of the Singapore Convention on Mediation on Aug 7, 2019.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam (seated) at the the signing ceremony of the Singapore Convention on Mediation on Aug 7, 2019.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The Singapore Convention on Mediation opened for signatures yesterday. Here are some key facts about the convention - the first to be named after Singapore.

Q What is mediation?

A Mediation is one of three main dispute resolution methods. Companies in a dispute can choose to resolve it by litigation, which involves hiring lawyers to undertake litigation, or by going for arbitration, with an arbitrator making a decision for the parties based on evidence. In mediation, a neutral third party, a mediator, assists in negotiations until the two sides reach a settlement.

Q What is the Singapore Convention on Mediation and how does it work?

A The convention is a treaty that sets out a provision for the enforcement of settlement agreements across borders. Countries that ratify it will have to ensure that international commercial settlement agreements are enforced by their courts. The courts of signatories are expected to handle applications - either to enforce such an agreement, or to allow a party to invoke the agreement to prove the matter has already been resolved.

Q Which are the 46 countries that have signed?

A They are Singapore, Afghanistan, Belarus, Benin, Brunei, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Fiji, Georgia, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Montenegro, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Palau, Paraguay, the Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Q A scenario where it might apply:

A When companies based in different countries get into a dispute over a long-running project, they might not want to risk derailing the project with a legal battle. They may choose to negotiate with each other, assisted by a mediator, to reach a settlement agreement.

The agreement is binding, if their home countries have ratified the treaty. Companies need not fear the other would default on the agreement, as they could turn to the courts in their countries for help in enforcing the agreement.

Q How big is mediation in Singapore?

A The Singapore International Mediation Centre, an independent body offering dispute resolution services for businesses, now sees about 30 cases a year. SIMC chairman George Lim said it is a promising figure, given it was set up in 2014 and mediation cases take time to come about. Around 85 per cent of such disputes are settled with the assistance of a mediator.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2019, with the headline 'Key facts about the convention'. Print Edition | Subscribe