US Embassy Sponsors Mediation Program
Berbice Legal and Non-Legal Professionals Benefit from Mediation Training Provided by USAID-GEP
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID/Guyana) through its Governance Enhancement Project (GEP) concluded an Advanced Mediation Training Program with a Certificate Award Ceremony at the Little Rock Hotel, New Amsterdam, Berbice on Friday, January 27, 2012. Twenty-five legal and non-legal professionals completed the training and will now be eligible for inclusion on a Roster of Mediators for the Berbice High Court. U.S. Ambassador D. Brent Hardt and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, representing the Chancellor of the Judiciary, addressed the mediators and presented certificates.
In his remarks, the Ambassador emphasized that mediation can reduce the costs to litigants in terms of time, money and emotional stress, and offers a means to make justice more readily available to people who may not be able to afford legal representation. He also noted that because cases can be completed more quickly, mediation can also reduce the number of cases in the court system and help overcome the judicial backlog. He told the mediators that they would be the “pioneers of mediation” who would be expected to “chart the course with commitment and enthusiasm so that mediation takes root in the fertile soil of Berbice.”
Mediation, as an Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism, was introduced in the justice system in Guyana in 2003 as one of the means of addressing the case backlog. It was developed by then Chief Justice Singh in cooperation with the Carter Center and supported by funding from USAID. It initially provided training to twenty-five attorneys.
In 2007, mediation training was extended to non-legal professionals based on the view that conflicts can be addressed before they are taken to the court for redress, thereby reducing the caseload and improving timely access to justice.
The individuals who have completed the training are listed on a Roster of Mediators which is recognized and endorsed by the Judiciary. This allows the trained individuals to conduct court-connected mediation in Georgetown. At present, mediation is available only through the High Court in Georgetown, Region 4.
The Chancellor of the Judiciary plans to expand mediation services to Berbice, Region 6 in 2012. To facilitate the expansion, Basic Mediation Training was provided to interested legal and non-legal professionals from the Berbice Region in September 2011, under USAID’s Governance Enhancement Project (GEP).
The training program, which utilized participatory approaches, was conducted by Mr. Paul Hinds from the Dispute Resolution Foundation, Jamaica. It reviewed the scope, nature, and implementation of mediation systems, with a focus on benefits of mediation to parties, the functions of a mediator, stages of mediation, court-connected mediation, case analysis, and management of dynamics at a mediation table.