A team from the DU's Conflict Resolution Institute had just been to Georgia earlier this summer in order to complete the last stages of certification of Tbilisi State University's new cadre of mediators. TSU faculty and DU faculty partnered to provide the components of a standard 40 hour mediation training plus advanced topics to supplement the Georgian students' university courses. Then on June 17, 2008, 28 new Georgian mediators were made official, accompanied by champagne and cake. These graduates will be the pioneers of mediation in their country, as they go out into the community and help identify avenues for the creation of mediation and conflict resolution services. In addition they will become the staff for the Mediation Center being established at Tbilisi State University.
In addition to receiving instruction in mediation principles typically covered in basic 40-hour trainings, time was also spent on advanced skill building, cultural variations in disputing, as well as advanced training in mediating business, organizational, and family disputes. These areas had earlier been identified through a needs assessment study done by TSU's Conflictology Center faculty as the areas of Georgian society best fit for the new use of mediation. One other area identified as important for further expansion of mediation and conflict resolution training is that of primary and secondary education, and plans were further elaborated during the June visit for a follow-up project. [In a parallel meeting with TSU top administrators, it was suggested to the DU/TSU team that a linkage be formed between an expansive data collection project currently being initiated in their public schools, and the study of traditional conflict resolution practices in the communities in the Republic of Georgia.]
Joining TSU faculty trainers Guguli Magradze, Medea Despotashvili, and Revaz Jorbenadze, were DU trainers Robin Amadei , Cynthia Savage, Ruth Parsons, and Tamra Pearson d'Estrée. Also, DU team members joined Prof. Magradze on a public panel to discuss resolving organizational disputes before a large audience of faculty, students, governmental representatives and community members. [In separate meetings, TSU team faculty also updated the DU team on progress in establishing their university-based mediation clinic, and consulted with the team regarding remaining issues such as best practices in establishing referral systems.]
Legendary Georgian hospitality provided breaks to the hardworking team. DU visitors were invited to a traditional extended Georgian feast for a Magradze family birthday, as well as treated to a visit to Turtle Lake, a popular park above Tbilisi with joggers and strollers of all ages, and to Mtskheta, an ancient town not far from the city where Georgian kings were crowned and buried. [Though historically subject to invasion, the Georgian people have continued to retain their strength, identity and charm throughout their tumultuous history. We find it a privilege to work with the Georgians as they infuse peace-building strategies into the development of this fledgling democracy. ]
DU's CRI continues to work with TSU to investigate the best avenues for increasing the use of mediation in Georgia and fostering a culture of collaboration and conflict resolution.