UK government poised to ratify Singapore Convention on Mediation

Move will strengthen mediation as a way to resolve cross-border disputes, lawyers say

UK's ratification of the Singapore Convention will boost dispute resolution market Shutterstock

The UK government is set to ratify the Singapore Convention on Mediation, allowing for the reciprocal enforcement of mediated settlement agreements on international and commercial cases.

The Singapore Convention was launched in 2019, following years of significant debate between expert representatives from many countries and UNCITRAL's legal advisers.

James South, chief executive at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), said: "Once parties create and sign a settlement agreement, they should be doing so with a commitment to be bound. That provides the certainty that businesses and public bodies usually value once entering a contract."  

Gregg Hunt of Arbitra International said the value of the convention lay in its status as an official platform to enforce mediated settlement agreements internationally, adding to the commercial viability of mediation. The news will boost UK mediators working on an international footing.

South agreed, saying the announcement was an endorsement of mediation's credibility as an internationally recognised process alongside the other two significant pillars of international dispute resolution and enforcement methods – litigation and arbitration.

Alexander Oddy, head of alternative dispute resolution at Herbert Smith Freehills, said: "While the Singapore Convention brings new tools to support the enforcement of mediated settlements, experience shows that most settlements are performed. The convention's true value lies in reassuring international disputants about the benefits and efficacy of mediation in resolving cross-border disputes."

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BCLP partner James Clarke said his firm often employed mediation as an effective and collaborative form of dispute resolution for its clients, to which the Singapore Convention promoted further confidence.

Henrietta Jackson-Stops, a member of the LIDW Strategy Group, said: "Signing the convention will give added weight to London as a centre to resolve disputes and help raise the profile of mediation. The wider dispute resolution offering is a key agenda item for discussion at LIDW23."

Both the Bar Council and Law Society welcomed the news. Law Society president Lubna Shuja said: "England and Wales is already a pre-eminent centre for mediation, litigation and arbitration because of the quality and reputation of its mediators, judges, lawyers and arbitrators and the agility of its legal system."

She added: "Joining the Singapore Convention will further strengthen the reputation of England and Wales as a jurisdiction of choice for dispute resolution and positively affect the mediation market."

Sam Townend KC, vice chair of the Bar, agreed: "The move bolsters confidence in the UK legal sector and is further recognition of the vital contribution that British lawyers make to UK exports."  

The announcement follows CEDR's influential biennial audit of commercial mediation, which found that it remained a dependable and successful feature of dispute resolution in the UK, to which the convention will provide additional weight.

Oddy said the survey's findings showed mediation's adaptability: "The development of online mediation has helped parties with scheduling and to reduce costs; they can get around the virtual table quicker and without travel. Demand for face-to-face mediation has recovered strongly, but online pre-meetings are now an established and positive addition to many commercial mediations."

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