Statement on Jamaica’s Recent Signing of the Singapore Mediation Convention on August 7, 2019
September 11, 2019
It is with great honour that I inform you Mr. Speaker, and through you, the Honourable Members, that Jamaica was among the over 40 nations that signed the Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (Singapore Convention) on August 7, 2019 in Singapore.
MS, on 20 December 2018 by Resolution 73/198, the United Nations General Assembly, via Resolution 73/198, adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (Singapore Convention) and authorized that a signing ceremony for the opening for signature be convened in Singapore in August 2019. This Convention was adopted in recognition of the value of mediation as a method for settling cross-border commercial disputes.
While mediation is increasingly used in international and commercial domestic practices as an alternative to arbitration and litigation, there was previously no international mechanism for effective enforcement of settlement agreements resulting from its use. Accordingly, the Singapore Convention will ensure that settlements reached by parties are:
will promote mediation as an alternative and effective means of resolving cross-border disputes.
It is therefore expected to contribute to the development of harmonious international economic relations.
MS, the Singapore Convention provides another anchor to peaceful resolution of disputes, the maintenance of the rule of law, ensuring international cooperation and multilateralism.
The Government of Singapore, through its Ministry of Law, extended an invitation to the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Justice to attend the signing ceremony. Accordingly, and based on this Government’s thrust to position Jamaica as an international hub for alternative dispute resolution, in June 2019, Cabinet approval was sought and received for a delegation of Jamaican officials, headed by the Minister of Justice to attend the signing ceremony for the Convention, as well as a High-Level Conference on mediation and international dispute resolution from 6th August 2019 to 10th August 2019.
MS, signing the Mediation Convention now gives us the full range of options for international dispute resolution.
Mediation and arbitration are often considered complimentary. For example, the International Bar Association Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration explain that with the parties’ consent, an arbitrator may assist them in reaching a settlement through mediation without prejudice to his ability to serve as arbitrator. Further, research has shown that mediation paired with arbitration has been the preferred mode of alternative dispute resolution by international legal counsels.
MS, the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes underpins the international legal order.
Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations stipulates that parties must first seek to settle disputes by, negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
This Honourable House is reminded that Jamaica ratified the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 2002. This placed us among the over 160 state parties to the Arbitration Convention which allows the enforcement of Arbitral Awards in any of those states. In 2017, we adapted the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration through the enactment of a new Arbitration Act and in so doing, modernized the legal mechanism to support international trade and dispute settlement.
MS, prior to the Convention, there was uncertainty in the enforceability of international settlement agreements arising from mediation. The effect of this was that parties involved in cross-border arrangements resorted to arbitration or other less autonomous modes of dispute resolution. This Mediation Convention will give investors and state parties the assurance that cross-border mediated settlement agreements can be enforced internationally. Most importantly, being non-adversarial, mediation preserves the relationship between the parties.
It is expected that Jamaica’s signing of the Singapore Convention will improve investor confidence in the Country and assist in improving our rankings in the Ease of Doing Business assessment.
MS, the Singapore Convention was borne out of over three (3) years of intense stakeholder consultations with academia, mediators and the private sector in the international commercial space. It was expressed in those consultations that the parties needed an alternative to arbitration and litigation which would not only ensure that disputes were settled, but more importantly, the relationships were preserved.
MS, copies of the Articles of the Convention are attached to this Statement and will be made available on the website of this House.
One of the most important features of the Convention is the fact that state parties have the option of excluding the application of the Convention to settlement agreements, to which it or any of its government agencies is a party.
MS, I will quickly inform this House that signing the Convention does not make it immediately binding on a State as it is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by the signatories.
When a State deposits such an instrument after the entry into force of the Convention, it will take effect for that State six months after the date of deposit of its instrument. Accordingly, States like Jamaica will have enough time after signature to take the necessary steps to ensure domestic implementation of the Convention.
As I’ve indicated earlier, the Convention deals with mediation for cross-border disputes, however it is my hope that domestically, mediation will also become a major tool in the settlement of disputes.
MS, during our visit to Singapore, we learned that many countries, including Singapore have benefited from greater use of mediation to resolve disputes as an alternative to litigation. We also learned that many law firms in Singapore earn most of their income through mediation and arbitration. One firm reported that as much as 67% of total income was through use of these alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
We intend to follow suit so that Jamaica can reap the economic benefits of settling disputes amicably and expeditiously. I will be consulting with the Honourable Chief Justice with a view to making mediation at the Parish Court automatic under certain circumstances. Currently, the court has the power to refer both criminal and civil matters to mediation, but it is discretionary. In order to increase the use of this dispute resolution mechanism, all stakeholders will have to come on board in convincing disputing parties of the benefits of mediation. Remember that mediation is automatic for civil litigation at the Supreme Court and this has helped to reduce the number of matters that proceed to trial at that level.
MS, in pursuance of greater use of mediation in the courts, the Ministry of Justice has embarked on a programme of training more mediators in all the parishes, and we hope to improve their technical capacity by inviting professional mediators from abroad to assist.
I will be appealing to the judiciary and the legal profession to place greater emphasis on mediation, which is not only cost effective, but when successfully undertaken, will reduce the burden on the courts, maintain relationships and result in savings generally.
I urge attorneys to become mediation advocates and encourage their clients consider mediation before starting litigation.