Businesses in the Caribbean now have increased access to an alternative dispute resolution method tailored to meet their needs following commercial mediation training hosted by the Arbitration and Mediation Court of the Caribbean (AMCC).
The training, conducted by the London-based Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), equipped twenty-two Mediators from Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica with the support of the Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility (CCPF). The participants will bring mediation experience to a range of fields including business, law, tourism, insurance, family/social welfare, the public sector, quantity surveying, architecture, academia, sport, investment and banking.
With the increased regional presence of trained commercial mediators, businesses can expect faster resolution of commercial disputes, which reduces business risk associated with having significant capital tied up in disputes for protracted periods and the damage to key business relationships. Speaking on the value of mediation in the commercial context, Secretary General of AMCC – Dr. Jason Haynes notes, “mediation offers a tailor-made avenue, whereby parties can be assisted by a certified mediator to reach a mutually beneficial settlement of their disputes in a faster, more cost effective, neutral and confidential manner.”
He explains, “mediation reduces the time spent on resolving a dispute; whereas court proceedings may take up to three years, mediation may resolve a dispute within a day. Mediation offers a more cost effective alternative, as the amount charged will be limited to the amount of time spent on the mediation and is borne equally by the parties.”
In terms of neutrality and confidentiality, Dr. Haynes, advises, “since the mediator is jointly appointed by both parties, they seek to assist both parties, without imposing a binding solution, to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome with the aim of preserving long-term interests and relationships. In relation to confidentiality, mediation offers the parties a private process that enables them to speak openly, without value judgments, about their concerns and interests, without the prospect of these being later used in court proceedings. Finally, mediation also preserves the parties’ wish not to have the public become aware of the intricate nature of their disputes, which may otherwise cause them to lose customers, trade secrets and their reputation.”
With the first round of regional training completed, the AMCC, under the guidance of CEDR, will work to establish a mediation panel targeted to addressing the needs of local and regional businesses, while ensuring that the highest caliber of mediators are selected to service the Caribbean.
Business and Innovation Climate Coordinator, CCPF, Valarie Pilgrim, lauded the establishment of the mediation panel as a much-needed initiative. She notes, “increasing access to mediation services is not a ‘nice to have’ but is critical to creating a more enabling business environment, particularly for our micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). It was not too long ago that I encountered a small business that had to cease operations because most of its assets were locked up in a protracted commercial dispute. The business was the only source of revenue for the family, so the commercial dispute resulted in psychological, social and financial turmoil.”
Speaking about CCPF’s involvement, Ms. Pilgrim added, “CCPF is committed to supporting the establishment of specialized commercial courts (as we did in Saint Lucia), the introduction of electronic case management systems, and increasing the access to alternative dispute resolution services (as we are doing here in Barbados). The benefits of a more enabling business environment go beyond the immediate business because it leads to increased investments, business growth, job creation, and improved lives.”