Singapore Convention Week and UNCITRAL Academy 2022: The importance of cross-border dispute resolution in the current geopolitical climate
International trade is worth over £1 trillion annually to the UK economy – close to half of the UK’s GDP.
It is critical that UK businesses have the confidence to enter cross-border contracts, knowing that if any dispute arises, it can be resolved fairly, efficiently, and effectively. Otherwise, international trade will stall, businesses will suffer, and people will lose their jobs.
This has grown even more crucial, given the persistent global economic uncertainty, amid other developments such as the COVID-19 pandemic, surging inflation, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Risks are heightened, and so are the chances of businesses not being able to fulfil their contractual obligations, due to reasons which may be beyond their control.
Value of international commercial mediation to the UK
Mediation is a dispute resolution mechanism that is increasingly recognised for its benefits and advantages, and is gaining popularity amongst the business community. The mediation process is generally faster and cheaper. Importantly, mediation allows parties to come to a win-win solution for both sides. This helps parties to preserve a harmonious business relationship, something which is highly valued in the current climate.
It is estimated that mediation can save UK businesses around £4.6 billion per year in management time, relationships, productivity and legal fees.
It is therefore unsurprising that the UK Ministry of Justice launched two consultations on whether the UK should become a Party to the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the Singapore Convention on Mediation).
What is the Singapore Convention on Mediation?
The Singapore Convention on Mediation provides an effective and efficient framework for disputing parties to easily enforce international mediated settlement agreements for cross-border commercial disputes.
The Convention opened for signature in Singapore on 7 August 2019, and entered into force on 12 September 2020.
To date, 55 countries have signed, and ten countries have ratified or approved the Convention, which is a strong statement of their commitment to trade, commerce and investment. UK’s key trading partners, including US, China, Singapore, South Korea, India, are among these countries.
Singapore Convention Week and UNCITRAL Academy 2022
From 29 August to 2 September 2022, global experts and thought leaders from around the world will convene in Singapore for the Singapore Convention Week 2022, to share the latest insights into the Singapore Convention on Mediation and other forms of cross-border dispute resolution amidst a changing operating landscape. The hybrid event is organised by the Singapore Ministry of Law (MinLaw), in collaboration with supporting partner organisations.
A key highlight is the UNCITRAL Academy from 30 August to 1 September 2022. Jointly organised by MinLaw and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the UNCITRAL Academy comprises the UNCITRAL Academy Conference and the UNCITRAL Academy Capacity-Building Workshops for government officials and industry.
Themed ‘Embracing Global Change, Navigating New Possibilities’, the UNCITRAL Academy will serve as a platform for international experts in the legal, business and government sectors, to discuss ideas and explore solutions. Over 25 global experts in various fields will discuss current and emerging global issues, including the evolution of the legal industry, reforms in investor-state dispute settlement through an Asia-Pacific lens, dispute resolution in the digital economy.
There will be panel discussions with international dispute resolution experts and practitioners at the three UNCITRAL Academy Capacity-Building Workshops, two of which are for Government officials, and the third, an Industry Capacity-Building Workshop, is open to the public, and will delve into topics such as mediation, confidentiality and principles when drafting settlement agreements to avoid enforceability issues.
Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam SC, will open the UNCITRAL Academy Conference with a welcome address. Other key highlights include a fireside chat with Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong SC, a speech by UNCITRAL Secretary Ms Anna Joubin-Bret, and the launch of the second edition of “The Singapore Convention on Mediation: A Commentary” by the Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy officiated by Singapore’s Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law, Mdm Rahayu Mahzam.
Singapore Convention Week 2022 is open for registration, and is held both in-person and virtually. Visit https://www.singaporeconventionweek.sg/ for information.
This article was originally published by Lawyer Monthly.
 UK Ministry of Justice, Feb 2022. Consultation on the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (New York, 2018) (the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”)