I love conferences – not only because of the wine and usually good food, but because you occasionally get to hear speakers that give you some perspective. “You have a chance to set yourselves apart from many countries in the world by setting best practice standards,” CEDR Project Lead Ranse Howell said at the First National Mediation Conference in Moldova, speaking of mediation development. This was said in November 2014 after the conclusion of Phase 1 of a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)-sponsored project in Moldova, that CEDR had been working on since January of 2013.
Amongst other activities, my colleagues Ranse Howell, Graham Massie, Andy Grossman and I had designed, developed and introduced mediation into two Courts of First Instance in Moldova. CEDR-trained mediators were working in these courts delivering mediation awareness information to litigants, their advisers and judges, and conducting mediations. Noticing the groundswell of support by the Government, the judiciary, CEDR-trained mediators, EBRD granted us an extension to our project of a further 18 months.
So at five months into this second stage where are we? The court mediation pilots in the Courts of Chisinau and Balti have had over 13 cases settle through mediation, the last one with a value of over $16,000 (which is over 6 times the national average annual salary of $2500). Judges have a growing understanding of mediation as a process and are gradually referring a greater number of civil and commercial cases to ADR, and there are now dedicated mediation rooms within the Courts. Litigants and their advisers are made aware of mediation using information provided by the judges, administrators, mediators, and on the back of court documents, there is information about the option for litigants to have their case mediated.
Due to the judiciary interest in mediation, CEDR were asked by the Courts of Appeal to establish their very own pilot. Although it has taken time to develop, there has been increasing interest in mediation with the Appellate Judges and there has recently been a case settle that had been in litigation for some time.
At the same time, the updated mediation law (that CEDR have additionally advised on) is on the legislative agenda of the newly formed Moldovan Parliament. It is hoped that this will soon be passed to establish an appropriate framework for mediation to occur within the country and to promote ADR further.
“But how did you get to this point?” a colleague from an international NGO asked me last week, thinking about their own mediation project. In order to give the project a strong foundation from which to launch, my colleagues trained a group of highly qualified individuals to act as Moldova’s first in-court mediators. In trade for receiving CEDR’s internationally recognised Mediator Skills Training, they agreed to attend Court for a day every week or two to conduct mediation awareness activities and to receive mediation referrals. In conjunction CEDR consultants undertook mediation awareness sessions with business, law societies, and the judiciary. The basis of these activities was to educate audiences about the benefits of mediation to stimulate the broader change of culture that would be necessary to designate mediation as the standard form of dispute resolution. But, as anyone involved in any type of change project will attest, it takes time and a lot of patience. In addition, court processes have to be in place so that cases can legitimately proceed to mediation.
So five months into Phase 2, the largest achievement is creating some momentum among stakeholders. The next step is to operationalise a mediation centre to drive private sector referrals and, as ever, trying not to lose sight of why we are doing this: To promote the business climate by offering litigants a quicker and cheaper form of dispute resolution with more tailored options; and to raise the efficiency of the courts by reducing case load burdens. I hope that the Second National Mediation Conference of Moldova is as inspirational as the First. Here’s to hoping – Cheers.