UNICEF Strengthens Online Mediation Capacity for Children in Conflict with Law

UNICEF is supporting the justice system in continuing to provide the needed services for children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with the National Agency for Crime Prevention and Probation of Georgia and the local NGO “Initiative for Social Change,” UNICEF has ensured the provision of quality online mediation services after COVID-related restrictions had disrupted the process of diversion and mediation, one of the key programs responding to the needs of children in contact/ conflict with the law.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created lots of challenges for us but we had to continue the provision of services for young people. Together with partner organizations, we decided to move the provision of mediation services online. Despite the hard times, juveniles have access to their rights which are guaranteed by the diversion-mediation program,” said Tatia Khocholava, the Head of the National Agency for Crime Prevention and Probation of Georgia.

Online mediation is conducted by a video conference where all parties participate using online platforms. It may also include a mixed format, where some professionals participate online, and some are present in person. At the beginning of the pandemic, the mediators were experiencing difficulties providing remote services, including in communicating and building a rapport with beneficiaries via phone and online platforms.

The support that UNICEF provided covered the following three areas:

-          development of the guidelines/instructions on remote and/or semi-remote work;

-          training and supervision of mediators to better respond during and post-emergency;

-          provision of technical equipment to develop online mediation mechanisms. 

“Around 4,000 children and young people have benefitted already from the partnership between the National Agency for Crime Prevention and Probation and UNICEF,” said Ghassan Khalil, the UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “We continue this partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure that we adapt to changes, and so that children and young people continue benefitting from the mediation and probation services,” Khalil added.

Online mediation will also be used in the post COVID-19 period for cases where there are long distances between parties, cross border disputes, or when parties do not wish to be together in the same mediation room.

The Diversion and Mediation Programme enables a prosecutor or a judge to divert a juvenile or a young adult in conflict with the law away from the criminal justice system. Since the program’s inception, it has proven to be an effective mechanism for preventing children from re-offending.

One of the main components of the Diversion and Mediation Programme is the mediation process itself, which helps a juvenile in conflict with the law to accept responsibility for an act committed, for the consequences of an illegal act, and to reconcile with the victim. A mediation conference is facilitated by professional mediators employed by the National Agency for Crime Prevention and Probation, responsible for the overall coordination and implementation of the program.

16 November 2020 18:02