Context: The lack of conflict resolution skills in a generally pervasive culture of violence is a root cause of crime in Belize. RESTORE Belize’s strategy, therefore, is to promote a culture of peace by providing citizens with tools and services for non-violent conflict resolution and creative problem solving; that is, mediation training.
To this end, in the summer of 2012, RESTORE Belize and the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) within the US Department of State implemented a conflict mediation programme in direct response to a recognized need for increased technical capacity in Belize.
Goals: The primary goals of the conflict mediation programme are to strengthen Belize’s national capacity to manage conflict peacefully and to create a group of trained conflict mediators who work directly with vulnerable communities to resolve disputes.
Conflict mediation training provides communities with essential skills such as anger management, conflict de-escalation, respectful communication, and creative problem-solving skills.
The target domains are school communities, correction and detention facilities for juveniles and adults, community-based organizations, and neighborhood communities including gangs and families.
Specific activities conducted under the conflict mediation programme are:
- Mediation training workshops for staff of institutions that work directly with youth populations, such as the National Youth Cadet Service Corps, Belize City High Schools, Community Policing Unit, Belize Central Prison (including Wagner’s Youth Facility), Conscious Youth Development Programme, the Youth Hostel, Youth For the Future, and community activists.
- Peer-to-peer mediation programs in Southside Belize City High Schools and a youth detention centre. Although some high schools in Belize already had peer counseling programmes, these peer mediation training sessions enhanced the efficacy of the peer counceling program by providing additional conflict resolution tools to the peer counselors.
- Court-connected Family Mediators were trained in late 2016 and sworn-in early 2017. These mediators mitigate the overload in the courts by resolving cases before they are presented to the magistrate.
Mediators have been selected from a diverse group of professionals who represent government agencies, police leaders, and community organizations working with youth from socially vulnerable neighborhoods. Individuals have also been chosen based on previous experience as trainers, natural mediation capabilities and a strong commitment to community-building and peace. The training has focused heavily on communication, conflict resolution and facilitation skills for high tension scenarios.