Mediation of conflicts: particularly important after Irma

Hurricane Irma’s destructive force and aftermath led to the closure of many businesses and consequently the regrettable dismissal of many of our citizens. The tensions that this causes, lead to conflicts and legal court procedures. Mediation as a method of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can be a powerful instrument to avoid escalation of these conflicts.

Therefore, at the request of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) and with the financial support of the Dutch Recovery Fund for Sint Maarten, VNG International organized a “Mediation Week” that took place from Monday May 28th until Friday June 1st on Sint Maarten. From Monday May 28th until Thursday May 31st, a group of 21 trainees was offered a mediation skills training. Furthermore, in order to raise awareness for mediation on a broad scale in Sint Maarten (legal) society, the first Mediation Congress was organized on Friday June 1st. Participants to the congress were civil servants, attorneys at law, union representatives, representatives of employers and many more.

Open dialogue to solve conflicts
Minister Lee of VSA strongly believes that conflicts should first be addressed through open dialogue, rather than through legal court procedures. “When parties in conflict are encouraged to listen to each other and start understanding each other’s positions, they are much more inclined to come up with their own solutions. A positive result of a solution that is mutually agreed upon, compared to a solution imposed by a third authority, such as a judge, is that the relationship between the parties improves and tensions will reduce”, Minister Lee stated.

Mediation as a method of ADR is gaining widespread acceptance in various countries among both the general public and the legal profession. Through mediation, an open dialogue between the parties in conflict is facilitated by an independent, objective and impartial third party. Minister Lee: “In the labor field on Sint Maarten, this role is fulfilled by the Government Mediator. But also other civil servants who are dealing with conflicts, such as the complaint officers working for the Department of Labor Affairs and Social Services, benefit from the mediation skills training because it teaches them to address a labor problem effectively.” Or as one of the trainees stated after the training: “It [the training] is beneficial to all as it lays the information that a mediator has to have in order to resolve conflicts amicably. The techniques can be applied at work and in our daily lives.”

Future mediation activities
Besides VSA, also the Department of Legal Affairs and Legislation of the Ministry of General Affairs was invited to attend the training. Jennifer Pawirodihardjo-Fer, head of the Department: “In our function as ‘legal advisor’ to all the ministries within our Government, I believe that it is important for our advisors to gain insight in alternative methods of conflict resolution apart from the classic one that we know: litigation. The training has made us understand that we can look at conflicts in different ways and that ‘the law’ is not the only source for a successful solution. At the end of the day, when two parties fight each other, it is all about communication. For the near future, we hope to get the resources to train more government employees.”


For more information please contact VNG International:; +31703738401