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Minister of Justice and Attorney General Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, has underscored the need for greater use of Alternative Dispute Resolution, as a tool for promoting economic growth.
“Delays in the resolution of conflicts, including commercial disputes, can significantly increase the cost of doing business, and consequently have a negative effect on the competitiveness of firms operating in Jamaica,” the Minister argued.
Senator Lightbourne was speaking at the Fourth Caribbean Conference on Dispute Resolution at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, on May 1. The function was held under the theme: ‘Creating a Culture of Dispute Resolution – Weaving Arbitration and Mediation into the Fabric of Life’.
The Minister pointed out that, already, Alternative Dispute Resolution, through mediation and arbitration, is playing an increasing role as more companies utilise these mechanisms. Among the benefits to be derived from mediation are: greater production due to reduction in time spent by workers in court; and timelier decisions, which are more attractive to investors.
Senator Lightbourne said that with the support of international development partners, the Ministry has contributed to the development of multi-door courts, where persons are offered alternative ways of settling their disputes.
She added that since the introduction of mediation in the Supreme Court pre-litigation process, the Dispute Resolution Foundation has delivered services through a roster of Supreme Court Mediators. She also disclosed that many of the civil disputes in the Supreme Court involve business entities and their clients or partners.
“Approximately 20 per cent of cases referred to the Dispute Resolution Foundation since 2007, are commercial matters,” she noted.
She further informed that the Ministry is currently developing a National Policy on Restorative Justice, “which may also see expanded use of dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation in a variety of settings, including corporate governance and regulation.” She noted, also, that the use of restorative justice practices in corporate governance is currently receiving attention internationally.
The Minister said that legislation has been amended to enable expanded use of mediation, but there is a need to amend legislation dealing with arbitration. Senator Lightbourne argued that the Arbitration Act, which was enacted in 1990, must be amended to include in it, provisions that support a commitment to finality in arbitration proceedings.
The Conference was hosted as part of the Foundation’s 15th anniversary of service to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Honourable Dr. Patrick Allen, has also proclaimed this year to be the National Year of Dispute Settlement.
Approximately 2,000 cases have been referred to mediation since 2006. In 2007, 967 cases were referred to the Foundation from the Supreme Court, with 687 of them being successfully concluded. In addition, 376 cases were referred to the Foundation from the Resident Magistrates’ Courts, with agreements reached in 172 of these.

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