The Mediation Rules 2013 were introduced by the Samoan government in August 2013, reflecting their endorsement of mediation as a pre-court or mid-hearing dispute resolution method. This approach is not too dissimilar to traditional approaches to settling disputes through the village council, or matai.
On the back of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Amendment Act 2013, which amended the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act 2007, commercial legal disputes can now be handled outside of the Samoan Supreme Court system, with mediation now being an option for complex commercial disputes, civil claims and family claims.
The mediation mechanism is supported by the newly formed Accredited Mediators of Samoa Association, a body of mediators which assists parties to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions to settle disputes.
Mediation is a facilitative process, where a mediator provides structure, timetabling and a negotiation mechanism for the parties involved, on a confidential basis, without any power to make any determinations.
The benefits of mediation include: greater confidentiality; lower costs which are shared by parties involved with the mediation; more procedural control vesting with the parties involved; judicial enforceability of mediated outcomes; and the ability to retain relationships between parties.
This alternative dispute resolution initiative in Samoa is a positive approach to lessening the burden on the Samoan judicial system, and offers a lower cost mechanism for parties in dispute. This change might see a similar push from other Pacific neighbours.