Trinidad and Tobago
Mediation Developments in Trinidad and Tobago
After the opening of the first mediation center in 1996 by the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Community Mediation Act was passed in 1998. Through a pilot project begun on October 1, 2000 and completed on Oct 1, 2003, mediation was made available to first time offenders charged with certain criminal offences and persons involved in disputes in a limited number of civil and family matters.
In 2004, new Rules of Civil Procedure and Family Proceedings, which both provided for the use of mediation in civil and family disputes, were implemented in the high courts. Further, the Community Mediation Act was repealed and replaced with the Mediation Act. This Act revamped the system of community mediation, provided for court-annexed mediation, and established the Mediation Board of Trinidad and Tobago, which was tasked with regulating the practice of mediation.
The new system of community mediation provided for by the Mediation Act (2004) was implemented in April, 2006. Then, in January 2013, another pilot project was launched by the Judiciary to test a combination of court-annexed mediation and settlement conferencing. This pilot project was successfully completed in May, 2014, and steps have been taken to firmly embed court-annexed mediation and settlement conferencing in the court process by January, 2019.
As of 2018, there were 10 mediation agencies and 583 mediators registered with the Mediation Board of Trinidad and Tobago. There were 7 community mediation centers operating across the country under the guidance of the Community Mediation Division of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and The Arts.
With respect to other ADR processes, conciliation has long been practiced in the Industrial Court, and that court has also been very receptive to the use of mediation. The Industrial Court is, in fact, registered as a mediation agency with the Mediation Board of Trinidad and Tobago, so it is anticipated that the use of mediation for the resolution of labor disputes will steadily increase.
Arbitration also has a long history in Trinidad and Tobago. The legislative framework for arbitration comprises an Arbitration Act based on English arbitration legislation—Trinidad and Tobago being a former British colony—and, an Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act which gives effect to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards to which Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory. Like litigation, arbitration is an expensive process, so it is likely that as the popularity of mediation rises, the use of arbitration will decline, since mediation can be much more cost-effective and timely.
By Kathy Gonzales, Senior Fellow – Trinidad and Tobago, Weinstein International Foundation.