Four years of hard work and an unwavering focus have led to the completion
of the USAID Georgia Grant project. Tbilisi State University in the country of Georgia is fully equipped to continue their Mediation Clinic, an important resource for a country that has survived centuries of various invasions and empires. The project and the Clinic have several notable accomplishments.
Four years ago, Professor Guguli Magradze of Tbilisi State University partnered with the Conflict Resolution Institute, headed by Dr. d'Estrée, to begin a project in the Republic of Georgia focused on developing a university-based clinic as a training center and curricular model that would support the growing number of mediators and conflict resolution practitioners in the country. This clinic was needed to address the existing tensions emerging from extensive societal reforms, an ethnically diverse citizenry, economic challenges, and a legacy of uprooting conflict by increasing the capacity of both citizens and specialists to manage conflicts more effectively (for project outline, see CRI Newsletter, Vol. 2, Issue 1). Professor Guguli Magradze of Tbilisi State University chose to partner with Dr. d'Estrée in order to achieve these objectives.
Through multiple trips by both parties to each other's hosting institutions as well as to our nation's capitol, progress soon became evident. This progress was reported at the faculty's session in the Georgian Parliament attended by members of Georgian Parliament, judges, and the media (see CRI Newsletter, Vol. 2, Issue 2). Here in Colorado, local mediators even got involved in the project, offering their advice and expertise to the TSU faculty upon one of their visits. CRI faculty member and Law professor Jeff rey Hartje also hosted a session for the visitors to discuss the mediation clinic (for more information on each of these interactions, see CRI Newsletter, Vol. 2, Issue; Vol. 3, Issue 1; Vol. 3, Issue 2). These visits reinforced the dedication each side had to this project and the excitement surrounding it. It was through these visits that progress was able to be tracked and adjustments to the original plan were able to be done.
In addition to setting up the clinic in the university, the TSU team members also worked to mediate conflict in the country of Georgia itself. They successfully mediated the long time conflict between the Institute of Cardiology and the Ministry of Health. Th is conflict concerned a state program announced four years ago that never came to fruition. With the help of the TSU mediators, an alternative decision was reached that left both the Institute of Cardiology as well as the Ministry of Health not only satisfied, but pleased.
The partnering TSU team members also sought to mediate the conflict within the government after the presidential election in January of 2008. The team made a presentation to the Parliament of Georgia and proposed that the parties use their services to resolve the conflict; while the opposition parties agreed, the ruling party declined. This instance can still be considered a success, as their presentation was in all the live television programs as well as the evening television broadcasts; partnering professor Magradze also participated in two popular talk shows to talk about the TSU mediation clinic, which was powerful advertising.
The clinic has also increased its small but steady stream of referred cases by adding a requirement to the mediation training courses that MA students bring in at least two cases of community, neighborhood, or workplace conflicts to the clinic. This requirement enables students to learn to mediate as apprentice mediators alongside faculty mediators.
The war with Russia obviously had an effect on this process. The conflict highlighted the growing need for conflict resolution and mediation more than ever. On the positive side, this development occurred almost simultaneously with the certification of 28 new Georgia mediators through the program at Tbilisi State University (for more information see CRI Newsletter, Vol. 3, Issue 2). The conflict, however, pushed back the deadlines for some aspects of the program; therefore, it was necessary to file an extension for an additional year to ensure the process would be completed. But this development also offered an incredible opportunity for the students and graduates of TSU's Master's Program to apply their skills to the problems surrounding the growing number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to the Georgian capital.
Now, in 2010, the goal has been realized. The clinic, besides training TSU's Conflict Resolution Master's Students, provides free and confidential mediation services to the general public as well as staff , students, and faculty at the University. Th is project has achieved the objectives of hands-on training and has become the logical institution for providing mediation services. In fact, it has surpassed many expectations to also include a new training process, an expanded curriculum, and institutionalized conflict resolution services. A total of 59 students, 10 men and 49 women, have been awarded degrees since the start of this partnership. Many more, including representatives of nongovernmental organizations, lawyers from private firms, students in the Caucasus School of Business, and new members of the TSU administration, have been offered certificates and other non-degree training. The effect of this project on the surrounding communities of Georgia should not be minimized as it has developed local expertise, validated local historical wisdom in the conflict resolution process, and developed a Georgian-language training manual and texts. The success of this partnership has been so great, in fact, that both parties are looking to take their collaboration one step further. They are currently working on a new project designed to bring conflict resolution skills into the curriculum of primary and secondary schools in the Republic of Georgia.
-- Brittany Cassell