Singapore Convention on Mediation: Viability & Challenges
The Singapore Convention on Mediation is formally known as the United Nations Convention on International Agreements Resulting from Mediation. It is an international agreement regarding the recognition of mediated settlements. It was adopted on 20th December 2018 and opened for signature on 7th August 2019. The Convention has been signed by 46 states and will come into force on 12th September 2020. The convention applies to settlement agreements resulting from mediation of international disputes and its goal is to promote mediation as a feasible alternative to litigation of international disputes by creating a process which is effective for enforcing the settlement agreement resulting from mediation. It must be mentioned that India is one of the signatories to the Convention.
International arbitration and mediation are often viewed as opponents in an antagonistic battle, however, the Convention is not about establishing the supremacy of mediation over international arbitration. The main aim of the Convention is to provide the parties to an international dispute the assurance that if they opt to mediate any settlement agreement, then it will be recognized and capable of being enforced by the courts of the signatory state without resorting to further litigation. It grants the parties the ability to expressly opt-out of its provisions and contains limited grounds for resisting enforcement.
However, while the Conventions has been widely accepted and welcomed, there are a number of challenges to it achieving its aims. The root of these challenges is the absence of uniform standards of practice. Since the Signatory states are permitted to enforce settlement agreements in accordance with their respective local rules, it could create a lot of uncertainty which could cause a lot of hindrances to the Convention’s success. The enforcement of the settlement agreement resulting from mediation that is provided by the Convention must be in writing and signed by the parties to the dispute. The mediator too, must confirm the settlement either by signing or by providing a proof that the mediation was carried out. Many mediators may hesitate in doing the same due to confidentiality issues and it is this and the above mentioned formalities that pose as the first hurdle to the process. The Convention does not state the specified qualifications for a mediator and there are no internationally accepted standards of conduct for mediators or mediations. Since the whole process is left to local law and practice, it creates a lot of confusion and uncertainty. The major concern continues to remain as to how the Convention will operate and how much will the local dependency be. One of mediation’s greatest plus point is its ability to come up with out of the box solutions to the disputes, however, regulating such outcomes will be a challenge for the Convention due to the lack of uniform standards of practice.
For the Convention to gain effect, it requires the ratification of three countries. While it has received the ratification of one country, the rest two are awaited. One of the major issues is that key nations such as the U.K., Australia and EU are not signatories to the Convention yet.