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Mediation course offers training for Bahamians

Bahamas “well positioned” to offer offshore mediation services to the US and Cuba, among other countries, according to head of London School of Mediation, Jonathan Dingle (pictured). The school ran its inaugural week-long intensive course in The Bahamas last week. (Dupuch photo/Tosheena Robinson-Blair) 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ten professionals from a cross-section of sectors have wrapped up a week of intense mediator training organized by the London School of Mediation.

According to the school’s director, senior barrister Jonathan Dingle, The Bahamas is well positioned to offer offshore mediation to countries such as the United States, or even Cuba.

“It’s a neutral place where people can come and mediate their solutions. It’s geographically convenient for major trade centres,” says Dingle, who over the last couple of years has worked in the Cayman Islands, the US, Canada, and the British Virgin Islands.

As he explains, the mediation process is a way to get to the heart of problems very quickly, “teasing out” solutions that come from the people involved, as opposed to having a ruling imposed by the courts which, perhaps, nobody likes.

“The beauty of mediation is that the solution is one that everyone is prepared to live with. It works for them,” says Dingle, founding secretary of the UK Civil Mediation Council–the recognized authority in the UK for all matters related to civil, commercial, workplace and other non-family mediation.

The training course, the school’s seventh in the Caribbean region, ran February 6-10, at the British Colonial Hilton.

“We aim to bring an understanding of mediation [and] to train people to use this fantastic skill. Mediation is an activity that is not only designed for commercial and business enterprises, but also looks at the community, education, health, etc,” says Dingle. “It’s a way of speeding up a resolution of problems with people at every level.”

Participants must master core, soft and higher level skills including the ability to describe how the mediation will work; identify the issues; summarize information, manage relationships; deal appropriately with unethical behaviour; and help participants identify principles and objective criteria that will guide their decision making.

One of the course participants, attorney Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola, believes many matters tend to be settled “when the parties involved are on the court steps.”

“When you bring mediation into that process at an early stage, it will perhaps help to clear up a significant part of the backlog of cases, as it will help parties to settle matters earlier,” said Gonsalves-Sabola, a partner in the law firm McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes. “Perhaps only the more serious and complex ones will eventually make their way to trial.”

Another attorney, Aubynette Rolle, will apply her newly acquired skills settling disputes with trade unions.

Rolle is the director of risk and safety at the Public Hospitals Authority(PHA)–a public corporation responsible for the management and development of the nation’s public hospital system.

“Within the PHA, I can use these skills from a human resource standpoint. It’s also an excellent tool because we have multiple unions representation and there are times when there are union negotiations,” says Rolle. “The skills will assist the employer (PHA) and the union in the careful consideration of what they are going to do and ensure that both sides receive something that’s amicable and can satisfy both.”

Mediators aren’t supposed to arrive knowing the answers, but they know how to get to them. It is this alternate mechanism of dispute resolution that RoyalStar Assurance claims manager Cordell Bullard feels will benefit his company.

“Bringing both sides together as a neutral third party and having them express their differences and arrive to some sort of a resolution without going to court will be of tremendous help, particulary in our sector,” he says. “We are normally involved in disputes and litigation. Mediation is a new and interesting concept for us, but if properly applied, I believe it can work.”

Although it is early days yet, participants have “more or less agreed” to establish a mediator association in The Bahamas, provided they pass the course assessment and open book test. The answers are expected to be electronically submitted by March 1.

Successful participants should receive their certificate before Easter.


Prince Harry is set to see the best of The Bahamas next month, as he visits the commonwealth country to celebrate the Queen's Royal Jubilee. (Photo source: Office of Prince of Wales)

Trinidad will play host to the foremost event on compliance in the region at the beginning of March. An additional Excel workshop will be held on March 3.

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