The backlog of civil and criminal cases in Magistrates and High Courts across the region has been identified as one of the “overarching problems facing the legal sector in the Caribbean”.
And coming out of the 2014 Regional Alternative Dispute Resolution Survey, Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean (IMPACT Justice) had been promoting mediation, particularly at the community level, to head off conflict before it reaches the law courts.
Regional project director for IMPACT Justice, Professor Velma Newton, explained the genesis of the Community Mediation workshop at the Barbados Community College to the participants on Monday. This course comprises 40 hours and Newton said advanced training was available for those who wanted to pursue it as a career, but this was where all mediators must start.
“When mediation is properly used, the parties, with the assistance of trained mediators, resolve their conflict with agreements which they themselves craft, and which therefore lead to parties that are satisfied with the results,” Newton said.
Some of the participants in the IMPACT Justice Community Mediation workshop at the Barbados Community College. (Picture by Shanice King)
She added that Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have “fully functioning” community mediation regimes and that the Impact Justice Community Mediation Bill was largely based on the legislation from Trinidad and Tobago, but acknowledged that the community programmes were “set back quite a bit” by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the audience which included Prime Minister Mia Mottley, and BCC principal Annette Alleyne, Newton said although Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) was long recognised in solving conflict before it escalated, there were some hindrances in the Caribbean.
These include underfunding ADR delivery mechanisms, the absence of mandatory referrals to mediation, a dearth of ADR programmes being delivered in community settings, the relative absence of restorative justice programmes, lack of specialised people trained to deliver ADR services and a lack of sustained public education programmes concerning ADR and the rights of the citizens.
Over the past eight years, IMPACT Justice set about developing a policy on ADR, drafting model arbitration and community mediation bills which have been approved at the level of the CARICOM Secretariat.
They have also been building capacity across the region through the training of 2 210 people in ADR. These include 21 in arbitration, 713 in community mediation, 203 in community based peace building and 1 205 in restorative practises. (SAT)