In 2000 and 2005, Trinidad and Tobago enacted laws that established and later expanded Community Mediation Centres throughout the country as a means to clear clogged court dockets, provide alternatives for justice, and improve efficiencies in government and non-government institutions. This created a need for more formal training programs in conflict resolution and mediation. It is here that the Educational Partnership between the University of the West Indies St. Augustine (UWI) and CRI aimed to help. The project provided an opportunity to explore socially diverse and culturally appropriate means of resolving conflict in Trinidad and Tobago.
This three-year project came to a successful close at the end of 2007, achieving its primary goals, which included:
• Training faculty in the skills of conflict analysis and resolution.
• Facilitating the development of courses and degree requirements for a Master's Programme in Conflict Resolution/Mediation at UWI.
• Developing a capacity for effective practice in the mediation field in Trinidad & Tobago, increasing the knowledge and skills of graduate students.
• The establishment of a Conflict Resolution Centre at UWI with resources for the community.
• The examination of western-based concepts and models of conflict resolution and mediation in a culturally diverse setting, increasing the knowledge of all programme participants.
• Broadening the perspective of students at both UWI and the University of Denver (DU) through a travel course offered by DU.
• Furthering understanding of the nature and dynamics of ethnic conflict in Trinidad and Tobago.
Models of conflict resolution appropriate for the Caribbean context will continue to develop as research started as part of this project continues
The success of this programme are highlighted in a survey conducted by grant evaluator Donna A.M. Parchment, L.1B, CD, JP, in which participants noted that "the programmes developed at UWI under this project are effective in preparing persons to act as mediators," and "substantial awareness exists of the UWI/DU project and programmes at UWI in the public and civil society sectors."
Additionally, Parchment noted that "new collaborations between the partners and with other institutions and programmes in the area, such as school-based mediation, restorative justice, dialogue, ombuds services and other have been stimulated by the lessons learnt and the success of this project."
CRI is proud of its involvement in helping UWI St. Augustine to expand its capacity in training students, the criminal justice system and community members in conflict resolution. The development of appropriate dispute resolution competencies and strategies is critical to ensure justice, peace and space for the development of citizenry. This project has institutionalized those capacities and intentions in Trinidad & Tobago and provided invaluable learning and insights at University of Denver.