A one-day conflict resolution conference held in Port O'Spain, Trinidad, was the final event of the Educational Partnership grant between University of the West Indies and the University of Denver. The conference was to highlight the work of this partnership by bringing to the attention of social work educators, government officials, and community activists the importance and potential of conflict resolution in the Caribbean, and to show the programs which were established through this project in Trinidad and Tobago. Scheduled on day three within the Eighth Biennial Caribbean and International Social Work Educators' Conference at the Crowne Plaza in Port of Spain last June, 07, hosted by the Association of Caribbean Social Work Educators (ACSWE), the conference reached an international audience, including attendees not only from all parts of the Caribbean, but also from the US, Canada, England, and Africa. Participants were members of the legal fraternity, representatives of Mediation Centres, the Family Court, social action organizations, social work educators, and faculty of the Mediation Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI, St Augustine.
Dr. Hamid Ghany, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI, extended a warm welcome to all. Dr. Linda Hadeed gave some data regarding the impact of the program in Trinidad and Tobago as well as other Caribbean islands. Mr. Ricky Rahim, Attorney at Law, authored a paper, read by Ms. Kareen Nathianel, Faculty, UWI. The paper challenged the Criminal Justice System in Trinidad and Tobago to move forward towards the utilization of mediation in its programs.
The featured speaker for the mini-conference, Ms. Donna Parchment, CEO, Dispute Resolution Foundation, Jamaica, highlighted the rise in violence and social problems in Caribbean countries and pointed out through many examples the increasing role and future potential of the use of mediation in families, neighborhoods, communities, and national governmental levels. In her easy, embracing style, she managed to challenge our conceptions of conflict and conflict resolution, and to dare us to afford a central position to these concepts in our practice, teaching and research initiatives. Dr. Adele Jones, Lecturer and Coordinator of MSW Program, Social Work Unit gave reactions and comments.
Faculty grant participants gave a panel presentation regarding two pilot research projects, conducted under auspices of the grant. One project focused on Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival as metaphor and a symbol of indigenous conflict and its resolution. The research pointed out styles of conflict and resolution around carnival issues as a way of understanding the nature and experience of conflict and resolution in Trinidad and Tobago.
The second project reported was a study conducted by grant faculty and graduate students at UWI to determine what cultural preferences may be present in Trinidad and Tobago if and when third-party intervention were used in conflict resolution. The results of qualitative interviews indicated that while third-party intervention is an acceptable vehicle for conducting conflict resolution, some elements of our neutrality based institutional models would need to be adapted to the cultural norms of Trinidad and Tobago.
There were two time slots devoted to concurrent presentations regarding the usage of conflict resolution intervention strategies to intervene in social problems in the Caribbean. Presenters included graduates of UWI's Post-graduate Diploma Program, students in its master's program, and practitioners from various Caribbean countries. Another DU grant participant, Dr.Denise Pearson gave a presentation on the pedagogy of teaching mediation. Attendance was good at the various sessions and discussions were lively.
This conference provided not only an opportunity to demonstrate the work of the Educational Partnership grant between UWI and University of Denver, but also served as a symbolic culmination of the joint collaboration between the two faculties. Furthermore, it provided challenges to participants to promote education and practice of conflict resolution strategies in the Caribbean countries.