Conflict between people – is a natural dynamic phenomenon and will always exist as long as there are two incompatible forces and passion.

The Chairman of Lloyds, Lord Peter Levene, once said,

“It is almost a cliché to say that modern businesses are built on effective stakeholder relationships, while simultaneously judged on rigorous market standards of efficiency.

Juggling these multiple and often conflicting demands in continually changing circumstances can easily lead to a spiral of conflict and disputes.

Competence in effectively managing such potential for disputes – or disputes themselves – becomes a pressing need for management and their advisers.”

Corporate executives and lawyers have traditionally relied on defensive and adversarial tactics in managing conflicts via litigation and arbitration.

Such approaches are increasingly out-of-line with concepts of effective risk – cost – and relationship management – in contemporary business practices.

In Barbados, when a dispute reaches impasse through direct negotiation, the default is the traditional adversarial legal system which is about 5 years backlogged. By the time the case is ready for trial, memories are faded, and witnesses may be deceased, the passion often gone from the dispute.

Over the past 20 years or thereabouts, in many jurisdictions – there has been a major paradigm shift in conflict resolution methodology. For instance, countries, such as Australia, England & Wales, Canada, and others in Africa, the EU, the US and India – community and government-initiated alternative dispute resolution programs have become available to many who might otherwise find themselves in litigation.

Within the region, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana have enacted Mediation and Dispute Resolution laws. Within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, mediation forms a part of their judicial system.

Mediation counters the image of the remote and mysterious court, offering:

  • informality;
  • freedom from rules of evidence and procedure;
  • control over the process; and
  • a chance for a more direct, human experience of dispute resolution.

It has been promoted as a process that provides justice more swiftly and efficiently than courts giving parties a voice in outcomes that affect them leading to more satisfying, durable and sustainable resolutions.

Alternative Dispute Resolution and particularly mediation has proven to be an effective management tool providing better processes for the prevention, management and resolution of disputes.

Disputes are resolved expeditiously and more creatively than the formal, gladiatorial-style litigation and at less cost whilst preserving relationships that are based on human values such as respect, trust, and mutual understanding which are fundamental in the commercial landscape more so within small island-communities such as ours.

In contemporary times, there have been changes in the way business is conducted, changes in information technology, changes having to be made in the use of our natural resources and energy, changes in the way we conduct our personal lives to preserve our health and well-being.

As Corporate Citizens and as social individuals let us pledge a firm commitment to promote change in the way we deal with – an unchanging factor of life – conflict.

About the Author

Kumar Hathiramani -

Kumar Hathiramani is a founding member and President of the ADR Association of Barbados Inc. A Business Administrator by profession, with a diverse business background, in trade, commerce, industry and property management; a Certified mediator and a Paralegal; Mr. Hathiramani emphasizes that mediation must be the first step to conflict resolution instead of the adversarial litigation process.