On December 14, 2019, for the first time in Georgia, a legal entity under public law ‘Mediators Association of Georgia’ was established, the presentation of which took place on February 19, 2020, at hotel Rooms. At the event, the Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, Carl Hartzell, and the (now former) Permanent Representative of the United Nations Development Program to Georgia, Louisa Vinton, congratulated the public on the official launch of an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
The Chairman of Mediators Association of Georgia, Irakli Kandashvili, in May 2021 was elected as Mediation Committee Chair of the European Association of Lawyers, which is great international recognition for the newly established profession in Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY decided to speak with Mr. Kandashvili to find out more.
Under your leadership, the profession of Mediator is being actively developed in Georgia. Tell us about it.
Mediation is a new word in the Georgian reality, it is a truly unprecedented reform of the last decade, which enables parties to a dispute to resolve a conflict themselves. I will use this opportunity to thank the European Association of Lawyers for the great confidence they expressed in me in May, when, under their auspices, they selected me as a Chairman of the first-established Mediation Committee, which is a great expression of trust and support for the mediator profession in Georgia. Together, we will develop this profession in Georgia and will contribute to its development throughout Europe.
The Mediators Association of Georgia is accepting a new stream of entrants in June-July of this year. In fact, the profession is very popular, and is gaining trust in society by the day, proof of which can be seen in approximately 80% of cases being settled through mediation, and 96 applicants going through the stage of testing their practical skills to enter the profession. I would like to wish them all success. I’m glad there is such great interest and belief in the profession.
What has led to this increased trust and interest?
The introduction of a new profession and its institutional recognition simultaneously require a solid infrastructural arrangement, as well as increasing public awareness and gaining credibility. We took effective steps in this direction throughout 2020, with Georgian mediators setting up an office.
We have managed, with the involvement of foreign experts, to develop European standards for entering the profession, which, on the one hand builds public confidence in the qualifications of those in the profession, and on the other helps develop a code of professional ethics in accordance with European standards and the rule of disciplinary proceedings.
We also agreed on the need for annual professional development training courses for mediators, as a result of which the public is aware that in this profession they will meet mediators with high professional standards, who are trained annually and whose activities will be based on ethical standards.
Last year, we also introduced an online remote production mediation platform, which during the global pandemic was an effective step on the way to professional development.
Increasing awareness of mediation in society is a priority for the Association, and up to 50 Memoranda of Understanding were signed in this direction with representatives of various public or private sectors, with the support of whom the process of development and establishment of mediation in Georgia will continue successfully.
Among our priorities is the introduction of teaching mediation as an alternative dispute mechanism in secondary and higher education. In this direction, we have a specific action plan, which we will consistently implement in 2021.
Tell us about that mandatory continuing professional development training.
All independent and self-regulating professions should think about developing the qualifications of representatives of the profession, which, in turn, generates more public confidence in the profession. Therefore, by the decision of the General Assembly of the Mediators Association of Georgia, we have made a commitment to annual professional development, and in the near future, we will address Parliament with the initiative to amend the Law on Mediation and set a similar standard at the legislative level.
Today, we are actively working with the United States Agency for International Development on the Rule of Law, with the technical support of which, together with a British expert, we are creating the concept of a continuing professional education system through mediators, which will be mandatory from 2022. This means that each existing mediator will be obliged to take care of the continuous development of their qualifications by engaging in learning content activities. This will be another step and an open demonstration of the mediators’ high social and corporate responsibility to the country and society as a whole.