Moving from courtrooms to mediation settings

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

Georgia adopted the Law on Mediation in 2019 after years of preparations and discussions supported by international partners, including the EU and UNDP. The Mediators Association of Georgia was established the same year aiming to support, regulate and certify mediators and raise public awareness about mediation.

By 2020, fifty-five trained and certified professionals had joined the first cohort of Georgian mediators, representing a variety of professional backgrounds and experiences. Some switched hats between adversarial advocacy and dispute resolution advocacy; others joined from conflict resolution and psychology fields.

But all of them were fascinated by the opportunity to help people resolve disputes in an efficient, speedy and cost-effective way.

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

“We have an important mission to fulfil — make society aware of alternative dispute resolution and create and maintain the best standards and practices”

Khatuna Sanikidze, a social psychologist, professional trainer and an active learning specialist, has been practising mediation since 2017. Her first encounter with mediation took place in 1995 when she studied negotiations and dispute-solving in the US. In 2017, when the EU and UNDP launched training courses for future mediators to expand access to mediation, Sanikidze was among the first to join. Sanikidze believes that the strength of mediation is that it attracts people from diverse backgrounds.

“Mediation was a closed bubble before, only accessible for lawyers. The training organised by the EU and UNDP showed that it can be open for people from different walks of life.”

“Mediation helps save resources, like time, money and human energy. Skills and technique can vary in mediation. They are simply the tools to achieve the main goal: a mutually acceptable and beneficial resolution for all involved parties. Having professional mediation available as a means of settling conflicts is a huge opportunity. It can assist our society in developing a culture of civilised dialogue, communication and negotiations.”

“Mediators must stay impartial and unbiased. They must control their emotions to correctly analyse often quite moving stories told by the parties. It is a great satisfaction for a mediator to successfully close a case and help them find common ground. That is the moment when you feel that you helped transform negative energy into positive.”

“Even though there is a historical tradition of mediation in Georgia, in the modern context, it is considered a fairly recent profession. Our generation of mediators has an important mission to fulfil — we need to make society aware of alternative dispute resolution and create and maintain the best standards and practices.”

“I am glad to be a representative of this honourable profession. I am proud to work with colleagues at such an exciting time, laying the groundwork for significant social changes.”

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

“A mutually acceptable agreement is what mediation is aiming for. That is exactly why it is so attractive — mediation is absolutely voluntary”

Sandro Bibilashvili is a lawyer with 15 years of experience in the courtroom. He has been practising mediation since 2013, even before it was established in the Georgian justice system as a recognised mechanism for resolving disputes. Bibilashvili is convinced that readiness to end a dispute with an agreement is key to making mediation successful.

“Being a mediator means assisting parties in achieving amicable dispute resolution, helping them find their way out of a deadlock. Sometimes we find out that the real reasons behind a dispute are not what was seen at the outset. Often, it’s miscommunication or a lack of communication. In the process of mediation, parties can realize that their interests are not that contradictory as it seemed. This is the best of mediation — to help people find solutions and settle their conflict with a feeling of fairness and satisfaction.”

“A mutually acceptable agreement is what mediation is aiming for. That is exactly why it is so attractive — mediation is absolutely voluntary.”

“My experience shows that lawyers can play both a positive and a negative role in the mediation process. I have met lawyers who tried to convince their clients that if they don’t force the other side to agree to their conditions during the mediation, they would take the case to court and win it. This is a destructive attitude that may jeopardize the process of mediation despite the attempts of the mediator.”

“But if parties engage in mediation with a sense of readiness to constructively discuss the issue, chances are high that the conflict will be resolved.”

“Now when mediation is being widely introduced, it is critical to explain its advantages to the public and make it clear that each dispute is not a zero-sum game and a win of one side automatically does not mean a loss for the other. This will be neither a fast nor an easy process, but it will benefit not only the justice system but the entire society.”

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

“Mediators can help transform a destructive conflict into constructive dialogue”

Mariam Bekurashvili is a professional of conflictology, a multidisciplinary vision of understanding, managing and resolving conflicts based on the principles of negotiation, agreement and non-violence. Bekurashvili has been engaged in mediation since 2018, after completing the EU and UNDP training for professional mediators.

“My first case was a family dispute. I was both excited and scared. This case taught me that it is very important to pay attention to details as the result often depends on nuances which you can reveal if you ask the right questions.”

“My everyday challenge is managing emotions. I recall the definition of conflict we were given during university studies: Conflict is a greenhouse for social change. It has both a destructive and a constructive nature.

“As a mediator, I have skills and knowledge to help parties transform their destructive conflict into constructive dialogue. I help parties to talk about their misunderstandings in a manner which allows face-saving and creates the chance for an agreement.”

“Mediation is an honourable profession. I am lucky to be able to serve my community, using the knowledge I have acquired to help people settle conflicts.”

Learn more about how the EU & UNDP promote alternative dispute resolution in Georgia.

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