Context: The lack of conflict resolution skills in a generally pervasive culture of violence is a root cause of crime in Belize. RESTORE Belize is addressing this through its Conflict Mediation Programme which aims to promote a culture of peace by providing citizens with tools and services for non-violent conflict resolution and creative problem solving through mediation training. On a national level, RESTORE Belize has been collaborating with the judiciary as a member of the National Mediation Committee, providing technical support in this movement toward peace.

Background & Funding: The training programme was first implemented in 2012 in direct response to a recognized need for increased technical capacity in Belize for alternative dispute resolution. It started as a partnership between RESTORE Belize and the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) within the US Department of State.

This work was expanded from 2012 to 2015 with funding from the US Embassy to train 120 mediators country wide. RESTORE Belize then leveraged funding in 2016 and 2017 for court-connected family mediation through the Youth Violence Prevention Programme (PreJuve) and in 2018 is partnering with the Youth and Community Transformation Project (YCT) to conduct conflict mediation trainings.

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.

Target Domains: The target domains are school communities, correction and detention facilities for juveniles and adults, community-based organizations, and neighborhood communities including gangs and families.

Mediators have been selected from a diverse group of professionals who represent government agencies, police leaders, school staff, 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.

Activities: 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.

175 Belizeans have been trained through this programme since it began in 2012 with 41 of those participants trained in the first half of 2018. After completing three successful supervised mediations they will be certified as mediators under RESTORE Belize’s programme.

The first 2018 cohort comprised 19 participants including social workers, police and youth officers. In the second cohort of the year, 21 participants from Maud Williams High School and 1 social worker from RESTORE Belize were trained. A full description of the 2018 trainings can be accessed here.

Peer mediation programmes in Southside Belize City High Schools and a youth detention centre. Although some high schools in Belize already have peer counseling programmes, these peer mediation training sessions enhance the efficacy of the peer counselling program by providing additional conflict resolution tools to the peer counselors.

This utilizes the increased capacity of conflict mediators under the Mediation Training Workshops who then will be able to train and guide peer helpers and prefects in peer mediation.

Court Connected Family Mediation as an amicable alternative to litigation that helps to de-clog the system. This programme is a collaborative effort between RESTORE Belize, UWI Open Campus Belize, the Supreme Court, and the UNDP/SICA PreJuve Project and has strong implications for the justice system in Belize since a mediated solution, unlike one imposed by the Court is likely to be more meaningful to the parties. This is because parties take ownership of the process and outcome, so the commitment to abide by the terms of a mediated settlement is generally higher.

In late 2016, 15 participants were trained and later sworn-in in 2017. At the end of that same year, 18 more participants were trained and sworn-in at the start of 2018. Participants were selected country-wide and are already working as court-appointed family mediators. The introduction of court-connected mediation into the Family Court promotes a culture of peace and allows for the efficient resolution of family disputes which affect children, adolescents and youth. More information on the trainings can be found here.

 If you are interested in finding out more about this programme and how you or your agency can participate, contact us.