An Estimated 1,000 Trained in Jamaica In Mediation Techniques in Last 18 Months

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

JAMES (A. J.) FORBES, president of the Jamaican Association of Federated Police, has strong feelings about the need for greater civility in society. "There is so much anger and hostility among human beings," he says.That concern is one reason he strongly supports the mediation approach to resolving disputes that has swept Jamaica in recent months. Under a $150,000 Ford Foundation grant, a team from the Law Center of Ohio's Capital University, has trained an estimated 1,000 Jamaican police, social workers, lawyers, teachers, students, business, and church representatives to mediate disputes and train others. "The word mediation sounds so simple, but it can have such a great impact," said Mr. Forbes on a recent visit to New York sponsored by the US Information Agency. "Mediation is sanity. It calms the parties and gets them to communicate rationally." Forbes is the "star" of a one of the project's training videos. He and another officer referee a dispute between a woman and her neighbor over a loud radio. Soon the neighbor complains further about her dog. She complains about motorcycle noise made by his friends. The two design their own solution. "The issue that sparked the dispute may not be what's really causing it," comments Forbes. "There are always underlying issues ... that can eventually erupt like a volcano. Mediation is the machinery that sets up the communication." Capital University made every effort to be culturally sensitive. "We were very concerned about not being 'the ugly American,' says Scot Dewhirst, co-director of Capital's Center for Dispute Resolution. The Americans shared their technological expertise while a Jamaican team advised them on what would and wouldn't work. Jamaica's year-old National Council on Dispute Resolution is now managing the whole effort.

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