DRF encouraging alternative options to conflict resolutionSunday, September 19, 2021
FOR almost three decades, Jamaicans have been playing an important role in owning the results of conflicts through the work of the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF).
The DRF is a private voluntary foundation to establish and encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques throughout Jamaica and in the Caribbean.
Manager of Mediation Training and Network Services at the DRF, Sharon Young Palmer, said over the years people have benefited through the use of ADR methods.
“What you find is that people might be apprehensive in the first instance because they really don't know what this is all about. Then they understand that they can have their issues resolved without really being tied up in the court for long periods of time or using violent methods or methods that are unpleasant and uncomfortable,” Young Palmer said.
She went on to explain that a major misconception about the process is that they are “giving up their rights and compromising their case.”
“But it is after that they realise, having gone through the process, that they are in fact owning the results and the outcome of the conflict. It is not a judge or someone else telling them what to do, but it is their problem and they are owning the resolution to this problem. Through the process that mediation, for example, takes them through, they now feel comfortable and at the end of it really, are quite satisfied because they are the ones who come up with the solutions, guided by the mediator,” Young Palmer said.
The work of the DRF is guided by set objectives, including educating the public about and encouraging them to use ADR techniques and community and restorative justice practices.
With the aim of promoting peace and resolving conflicts without resorting to violence, the DRF mandate is also centred on establishing Peace and Justice Centres (service centres) in communities throughout Jamaica.
Since July of 1994, the foundation has also worked to increase the mediation and arbitration services by the legal profession and courts as dispute resolution options.
Over the years, Young Palmer says she has recognised the growth in Jamaicans in their attitude towards the use and execution of ADR.
“So you find we have individuals who are willing to facilitate this process by being trained as mediators and become professionals in the field. They now offer their services to complement the other services that we have in terms of our justice system, but also to assist our citizens to arrive at amicable solutions to their problems. This means we have people who are gainfully employed and they really want to assist with reducing the incidents of antisocial behaviour, sometimes that arise because people are really not able to resolve their conflicts,” Young Palmer said.
She went on to share that people offer themselves to become trained so as to add value to their own circles.
“Sometimes it's in their own families, workplace, communities and organisations that they belong to. People are seeing that conflict is a deterrent to progress and development. So they want to be trained in the process of having peaceful co-existence, and to have others understand that we can resolve our conflicts; and if we can't resolve them we can find ways of managing them, guided by a professional,” She expressed.
In addition to those willing and able in the workforce, people who are facing retirement have also been interested in facilitating dispute resolution.
“We find people, even those who are heading towards retirement, they see it [not only] as an alternative source of income but also a source to be gainfully employed, engaged, and to give active service. We also have daily requests for training from different groups. This includes people from professional groups including attorneys … as they too … utilised the services… because they see the value of mediation,” Young Palmer said.
Other groups that find value in ADR training include guidance counsellors, teachers, business people, community leaders, church groups, pastors, and bankers.
“Just about a wide cross section, everyone you can think of in Jamaica who has been exposed to mediation or who is inclined to be in that helping profession and so on, you find that they become interested in being trained as mediators,” Young Palmer explained.