Message from IMPACT Justice in Collaboration with Crime Stoppers on Conflict Resolution Day, today

(BRIDGETOWN) The Improved Access to Justice (IMPACT Justice) Project is being funded by the Government of Canada under a Collaboration Agreement with the UWI, Cave Hill Campus. On behalf of its partners and organisations with similar goals, including Crime Stoppers, IMPACT Justice joins many countries and institutions in celebrating Conflict Resolution Day.
There will be conflict in any society between one or more persons over values, how to raise children, perform tasks, competition for status, power, resources including money and a number of other matters. Some conflicts end up in fights, persons not speaking to each other, and sometimes, tragically, in serious harm or death to one or more parties. Most people would like to avoid conflict, but finding the most appropriate way of doing so is often a challenge.
Many conflicts, some of them minor, reach the law courts where they help to clutter court rosters, and may remain unheard or part-heard for months, sometimes years. The court process can be long and drawn out, and neither party may be pleased with the outcome.
It is for these reasons that methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) have been sought and are increasingly being used to deal with conflict throughout the world.  Alternative Dispute Resolution is usually faster, less costly and more private than court proceedings. It preserves relationships, resolves  non-legal issues and parties are usually directly involved in reaching the settlement. In addition, solutions are usually more creative and flexible than in the court process and solutions are more likely to be implemented since the parties have agreed to them.
The main types of ADR are:
Mediation: A neutral person helps the parties negotiate with each other and reach a solution to their problems. Mediation is suitable for all types of matters, from disputes between school children to those involving large businesses. The two main types of mediation are court-annexed, in which trained mediators are used by the courts to assist parties in solving disputes, and community mediation. In community mediation, the mediators are often well-respected persons familiar with the community such as justices of the peace, teachers, religious leaders and police officers and they are often consulted before the parties take their issues to court.
Conciliation is similar to mediation except that the conciliator may make proposals and offer guidance. Conciliation is often used in labour disputes.
Arbitration is similar to court proceedings in that the arbitrator, like the judge, makes the decision. However, it is private and often, but not necessarily, much faster, with the parties able to choose their own arbitrator. Arbitrations are often used for matters involving large sums of money.
Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that focuses on crime and wrong doing. The person who has done harm to another takes responsibility for his or her actions and the person who has been harmed may play a central role in the process, in many instances receiving an apology and reparation directly or indirectly from the person who caused the harm. It is often used in minor criminal matters where the offender has admitted his responsibility. Both parties have a chance to make suggestions to help offenders repair the harm caused to the victim and community. Restorative Justice is largely, reactive, consisting of formal and informal responses to crime and wrongdoing after it occurs.
An offshoot of Restorative Justice is Restorative Practices. It encourages both adults and children in the process to focus on the deed and not the doer; take responsibility for their actions; focus on reducing and resolving conflict at the earliest possible stage; seek to avoid blame and try to find a constructive solution to issues; and communicate effectively and works towards positive outcomes. Restorative Practices are heavily used across the world to assist persons in building and strengthening relationships in communities, schools and homes.
It is of interest that both mediation and Restorative Practices, the ADR mechanisms most heavily used, evolved from the practices of Aboriginal communities across the world where they are still used as the main methods of settling conflict.
IMPACT Justice and ADR
Almost all of the CARICOM Member States use arbitration, and have introduced court-annexed mediation. The latter type of mediation is used in civil and family matters in the High Court and many Member States are planning to extend its scope to the Magistrates’ Courts. Community mediation is not as frequently used, and in fact, while court-annexed mediation is provided for in the Rules of Court, legislation to establish a framework for community mediation is lacking in all CARICOM Member States except Trinidad and Tobago.
With regard to other types of ADR, Conciliation is used by the trade unions throughout the region and Restorative Justice is frequently used in Jamaica where a policy has been developed by the Government but to a lesser extent in other countries.
The aim of the IMPACT Justice Project is to increase access to and strengthen use of ADR in CARICOM Member States. To this end, it has so far trained Government employees who are likely to use arbitration in the course of their employment in arbitration. It has also trained mediators in Barbados, Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis and has developed plans for so doing in Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other countries in the region. The focus has been, and will continue to be on training community mediators, including policemen and women, justices of the peace, probation officers, child care board officers, prison officers and community leaders.
The training has commenced while IMPACT Justice is drafting model legislation for the regulation of community mediation. This legislation will provide for the relevant Minister to set up districts and make rules for the conduct of mediations, set the fees which mediators may charge and establish a Code of Ethics to which they must agree.  IMPACT Justice hopes that the regional Governments will adopt the model legislation wholesale, or with any modifications which they consider suitable so that community mediators may begin to make their contribution to reducing existing burdens on the justice system.
With regard to court-annexed mediation, IMPACT Justice will train or retrain mediators in countries where the numbers are insufficient to contribute to a viable court-annexed mediation scheme or where they were trained over 5 years earlier and need refresher courses.
The Project has also trained educators in the use of Restorative Practices in Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and will shortly be doing the same in Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Guyana.
The plan is to continue training in community mediation and Restorative Practices in all CARICOM countries in which the Project is being implemented, up to the  end of 2016.  After that, the Project plans to assist those trained in joining ADR associations where they exist, or in forming new associations.  
IMPACT Justice has not yet started a community-based peace building programme, which is also to be undertaken under ADR. However, it is currently discussing collaborative approaches with organisations already working in this area in schools and communities to show troubled youth that there is good in each and every one of them and that violence begets violence and is not the way to solve problems. One of these organisations is Crime Stoppers.
It was recently brought to our attention that the regional body of Crime Stoppers International was about to embark on a project aimed at increasing citizen security in the Eastern Caribbean. Discussions revealed that the objective of this project is to enhance the ability of target communities to develop through wide stakeholder participation, a culturally-appropriate and gender-responsive Community Safety Strategy (CSS) with an Action Plan to be used in implementing crime prevention and/or reduction measures which incorporated the anonymous sharing of information with Crime Stoppers which is ultimately relayed to law enforcement for the relevant action to be taken.
The CSS provides an integrated approach that will address increasing crime and violence and mitigate the negative social and economic factors associated with it.  Hence the overarching aims of the Crime Stoppers project are to build safer and more confident communities, increase community safety and reduce the fear of crime.  In addition, the intervention will support the empowerment of “at-risk” communities that are particularly vulnerable to increasing crime through training intended to increase project buy-in and establish/strengthen their relationship with Crime Stoppers as a trusted partner in their efforts to address the social maladies in their communities.  
In addition to this community based project, it was also revealed that the Crime Stoppers organization in Barbados already has significant experience in developing and executing school based programmes that address conflict resolution and anger management. Over the past 4 years, Crime Stoppers has worked with over 13,000 students in 15 secondary schools in Barbados, and over 2,500 pre-teens & teenagers at the National Sports Councils Sumer Camps through the delivery of age appropriate workshops that are creatively designed to provide young people with the tools needed to handle situations of conflict and anger.
Having recognized the many synergies that exist, IMPACT Justice and Crime Stoppers have agreed to collaborate with respect to the community-based peace-building initiatives which have to be undertaken as part of the overall Project.
Velma Newton, Regional Project Director – IMPACT Justice, UWI, Cave Hill Campus

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