The country’s courts are struggling to cope with the influx of commercial disputes
- If Uganda ratifies the Singapore Convention now, parties will be afforded a great opportunity to use mediation as an international alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
- It will give parties confidence that any international settlement from cross-border member states that arise out of mediation can be easily enforced by the courts of the contracting parties to the convention.
The United Nations Convention on International Mediation Settlement Agreements which is also known as “The Singapore Convention on Mediation” is a convention that applies to international settlement agreements resulting from mediation.
It sets out a legal framework for the right to invoke the mediation settlement agreements as well as for their enforcement among the member states. The convention facilitates international trade by using mediation as an alternative and effective method of resolving commercial disputes. The Singapore Convention on Mediation was adopted in December 2018 in Singapore, and on August 7, 2019, Uganda was among the first countries that signed it.
Despite Uganda having been among the first countries that signed the Convention, up to this day, it has not ratified it, meaning the convention is not legally binding, and Uganda can therefore not enjoy its benefits.
Countries such as Singapore, Qatar, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Fiji and Ecuador have ratified the convention and enacted it into their legislation.
Over the past two years, Uganda’s economy has been paralysed by the Covid-19 pandemic; the country’s courts are struggling to cope with the influx of commercial disputes and there’s a huge backlog of cases that need to be resolved. It is therefore paramount that another effective dispute resolution mechanism is brought on board as soon as possible
If Uganda ratifies the Singapore Convention now, parties will be afforded a great opportunity to use mediation as an international alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
It will give parties confidence that any international settlement from cross-border member states that arise out of mediation can be easily enforced by the courts of the contracting parties to the convention.
The convention gives parties to a commercial agreement the autonomy of mutually selecting a mediator and agreeing on the procedure of how a dispute can be resolved.
The mediator has also a role of assisting both parties to come to a settlement agreement and usually assist them in the drafting of the International Mediated Settlement Agreement (iMSAs), a contractual document that outlines the parties’ understanding, responsibilities and resolutions.
Many Ugandans prefer to resolve conflicts in an amicable or brotherly manner that preserves relationships. Mediation provides this. Uganda’s ratification of the convention will give the business community a strong and secure international legal framework that is familiar to the Ugandan way of resolving disputes.
History tells us that mediation is not a new concept to Ugandans; this was a very common way of resolving disputes by our ancestors. Therefore, adopting a mechanism that is easily understood by many, will promote businesses in the nation, combat poverty and foster peace.
Just like all other dispute resolution mechanisms such as litigation or arbitration, it is not guaranteed that international commercial mediation will resolve all disputes, however it presents a big chance of boosting international trade in Uganda.
Kato Mpanga is an academic lawyer and counsel. Frances Ddungu is the Arbitration and Mediation Society of Uganda chief executive officer