Author: Nadja Alexander*
Published: March 2020
The mood is positive.
According to media reports, the new UN Convention on Mediation, named the Singapore Convention on Mediation (SCM), “will give businesses greater assurance that mediated settlement agreements can be relied upon to resolve multinational commercial disputes.”
A senior lawyer from a major Asian law firm is reported as saying, “[The New York Convention on Arbitration] has […] 160 state parties to the convention and still attracts sign-ups to this day, […]. It is hoped that the Singapore Convention will face an equal level of success”. In a similar vein, another commentator suggests “[I]t would be good if the Singapore Convention could raise the popularity of mediation as a valid mode of dispute resolution around the world.” With few exceptions, commentaries in academic and legal practitioner publications appear equally confident that this new Convention will provide a significant boost to cross-border commercial mediation practice.
But is such optimism premature? At the time of writing it remains uncertain how many States will participate in the inaugural signing ceremony to be held in August 2019 in Singapore. Regardless of the initial number of signatories, there looms a larger question. What will really change when the SCM is signed?
*Nadja Alexander is Director of the Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy and Professor at Singapore Management University. Thanks go to Professor Michelle LeBaron for inspiring the title of this article and to Aziah Hussin, Bernadette Iyodu and Angelica Tan for research and editorial assistance.