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Standards & Accreditation

The Need for Standards & Accreditation

1) The Debate
There is considerable debate locally and
internationally over accreditation standards
for mediators and arbitrators (referred to
as dispute settlement practitioners
orpractitioners) At its most basic level
accreditation involves the formal recognition
of individuals, organisations or programmes
in a particular profession, in terms of specified
objective standards relating to qualifications, competence and
performance. While there is a diversity of views in relation
to accreditation, the weight of opinion and practice is towards the view that there should be a uniform system of practitioner accreditation. Examples of this can be found in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and many other jurisdictions.
A national uniform system of practitioner accreditation would usually have the following objectives:
the improvement of practitioner knowledge, skills and ethical standards;
the promotion of standards and quality in mediation practice;
the protection of the needs of consumers of mediation services and provision for accountability where they are not met;
the conferring of external recognition to practitioners for their skills and expertise;
the development of consistency and mutual recognition of practitioner training, assessment and accreditation;
a broadening of the credibility and public acceptance of dispute settlement services and practitioners.
In most jurisdictions the need for a uniform national standard became pressing as soon as the use of mediation or arbitration was institutionalised through a government initiative. One example of this is the National Mediation Helpline in the United Kingdom. The UK government has prescribed that, in order to participate in the scheme, mediation organisations must be accredited by the Civil Mediation Council.

3) Voluntary System
The system of standards and accreditation
provided by

DiSAC and NABFAM is a voluntary,
'opt-in' system. It is not a licensing system.
This implies that no practitioner
can be forced to apply for accreditation, and
that accreditation is not a requirement for
practicing as a dispute settlement practitioner.
Thisapproach accords with that followed in other
jurisdictions. History has shown though, that the voluntary standard adopted by the industry soon becomes the de facto standard.

This happens when users of dispute resolution services begin adopting these standards (see, for instance, the example of the UK mediation helpline referred to above).

There is already demand for mediation standards and accreditation in South Africa, particularly in respect of the implementation of mediation in civil disputes in our High Courts and Magistrates Courts, and with family mediations under the Divorce Act and the Children's Act. Government has already indicated a willingness to engage with DiSAC and NABFAM with regard to mediation standards for these projects.

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