The suggestion is an initiative by Ministry of Justice Secretary Tamatoa Jonassen and Cook Islands lawyer Catherine Evans.
Jonassen said: “I came to the conclusion many years ago - while doing a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution with the Matsunaga Institute for Peace - that the Cook Islands could benefit from having a mediation centre.
“I know I am not the only Cook Islander to come to that same conclusion.”
Jonassen confirmed that the centre is not intended to come under the Ministry of Justice, but is a non-profit initiative that can assist the resolution of some conflicts before they are taken to court.
Jonassen said the Cook Islands Law Society has held mediation training over the past two years that have resulted in several trained mediators in the Cook Islands.
However, he said that mediation is happening on more of an ad hoc basis.
“It is our intention that the Mediation Centre will be a contact point in arranging mediations, accrediting mediators, providing mediation training and conducting awareness workshops and community outreach.
“The centre should assist in ensuring quality control and consistency among mediators, including conflict of interest checking and can become a conduit for educating and engaging the public in conflict resolution.”
He said some Pacific countries have already established mediation centres that have benefited their communities in resolving conflicts.
Jonassen said that interestingly, the Employment Relations Act 2012 already calls for mediation in resolving employment disputes.
“There is an opportunity for businesses and government departments to include the Mediation Centre as part of their grievance processes.
“It is anticipated that the mediation centre will assist in arranging for mediations that may be referred through the Employment Relations Act, Office of the Public Service Commissioner and Ombudsman office, Punanga Tauturu, lawyer referrals, community self-referrals, and some court directed mediations.
“Given the proper support, a mediation centre has the potential to alleviate courts of some disputes and provide an alternative dispute resolution process that is less litigious and fractions of our society and our families and may be a more conducive approach aligned to traditional/societal values.
“Not all disputes are suitable for mediation, and it is reasonable to expect that not all mediations will result in an agreement between parties,” he added.
A meeting to form a mediation centre will be on February 20 at the University of the South Pacific in Avarua at 6pm.
The meeting is intended to incorporate a society to govern the centre and invites the involvement of those in the community interested in alternative dispute resolution. Staffing of the mediation centre will depend on the volume of disputes referred.