Our team had a wonderful experience working with the mediators of the Barbados Supreme Court.
The training was funded by the IMPACT Justice Project, an initiative of the Canadian government that is designed to enhance access to justice at all levels—from community to court— throughout the CARICOM countries.
(Click here for a link to local media coverage of our training in Barbados).
This training followed a week of training with The Royal Barbados Police Force, also as part of the IMPACT Justice project. (See our prior blogs on the workshops we have previously done with police officers and community leaders throughout the Caribbean.)
Sir Marston Gibson, the Chief Justice of the Barbados Supreme Court, explained the importance of courts in Barbados making high-quality mediation accessible. Courts there, as here, are backlogged with cases that could be resolved more effectively and efficiently out of court. The culture of mediation is relatively new to Barbados in both civil and family disputes.
The pilot project that he has established there encourages judges to refer all appropriate civil and family cases to mediation. As in many jurisdictions, the project recognizes that family mediation is probably not appropriate in situations of coercive and controlling domestic violence. But all other cases are considered appropriate for the initial three hours of mediation, which is paid for by the parties at established rates.
All of the mediators in our group were already trained and many were experienced mediators.
We learned that mediators in Barbados face the same challenges as the rest of us; resistance from the legal community based on perceptions that mediation presents competition to lawyers; general lack of awareness among litigants about the merits of mediation; lack of resources to pay mediators appropriately and lack of funds on the part of litigants.
Our training focused on teaching aspects of mediation that the students had not learned, including how to analyze the underlying emotions and relationships driving the conflict; understanding how to work effectively with ‘high conflict’ people; strategies for empowering parties to negotiate more effectively, and tools for making strategic decisions about when to caucus with the parties. Our use of the concept of a “perceived injurious experience” as the starting point for understanding how conflicts escalate into disputes and our inclusion of mental health professionals on our training team was well received by the participants.
Training in another jurisdiction presents many opportunities for mutual learning, particularly in this case where our “students” had much to teach us about the culture, history and dynamics that are unique to dispute resolution in Barbados.