Chief Justice Ivor Archie formally appointed the new Mediation Board on November 12.
The date of the board appointment was described as symbolic, coming as it did during the country’s largely unknown and unheralded Mediation Week observances.
There was also no explanation of why board members, notified of their pending appointments since August, weren’t confirmed with their instruments of appointment until a week ago.
These appointments are important to the mediation process, since the Mediation Board is the formal agency that regulates the practice in this country.
While there are several options for study and training, certification to practise as a civil mediator is issued by the board, which hasn’t met for long months
Progressive Party political leader Nikoli Edwards, a mediation student, fretted that mediation isn’t being given the respect it deserves.
It’s an odd situation for the Chief Justice to find himself in, knowing that he presides over a Judiciary that’s overburdened with cases which can only benefit from more disputes being settled outside the courts – through the mediation process.
Mediation doesn’t always replace judgment by a court, but it is a lower-cost way to find acceptable mutual ground in disputes. Internationally, high-level cases involving hot-button issues such as bankruptcy are decided on by a judge after weighing the results of a mediation process and the resulting agreement.
But this isn’t the only value of mediation, which has wider implications. The mission of the Mediation Board is to build a culture of reason and discussion across a range of flashpoints in our society.
The principles underpinning mediation are also directly applicable to restorative justice, another aspect of civic reckoning that isn’t being pursued to the extent that it should be.
Mr Edwards is intuitively correct to realise that mediation training can only improve the capacity of politicians, particularly in TT’s parliamentary process, where little that is collaborative and conciliatory is to be found.
Children and young adults would also benefit from an introduction to the core principles of mediation, which emphasise empathy, understanding and attentive conversation as key elements in resolving differences.
TT society has lost a lot as our culture of elder wisdom, and the respect it commanded, has diminished. Without that informed guidance, discussion has been replaced by a capacity for adversarial posturing that quickly devolves into hair-trigger violence.
Mediation Week ended on Wednesday without building an increased awareness of the value of existing mediators, pointing to inspirational mediation outcomes or encouraging more people with the aptitude and capacity to consider the profession.
There should be more mediation, more trained mediators and more mediation training at all levels of civil society.
The work of the Mediation Board should be more robustly supported.