UHLC Prof. Willis stresses mediation guidelines at UN conference in Tbilisi, Georgia

Tasha Wilis

Jan. 9, 2017 — University of Houston Law Center Professor Tasha Willis spoke recently in Tbilisi, Georgia, at a United Nations program designed to reform that eastern European country's judicial system, in part, through the increased use of mediation to ensure justice for all, especially children.

Willis, director of the Law Center's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program and a mediation Clinic professor, spoke on the subject: "Regulating Mediation: Importance and Necessity of Voluntary Credentialing." She stressed the importance of developing a system in which mediators actively choose to follow a defined set of ethical guidelines as opposed to being government regulated.

The program, "Enhancing Access to Justice and Development of a Child Friendly Justice System in Georgia," was sponsored jointly by The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Project (UNDP).  The conference, funded by the European Union, brought together representatives from six countries to discuss four goals for ongoing reforms in Georgia:

  • Enhance the capacity of legal aid services;
  • Strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the legal profession;
  • Ensure greater application of alternative dispute resolution; and
  • Improve the environment for children in the justice system; establish specialization of criminal and civil law systems; and strengthen capacity of specialized justice professionals to apply child-sensitive access to justice approaches.

"The Republic of Georgia is just now, after six years, finalizing the implementation of a mediation program," Willis explained. "The USAID program started with the development of an ADR Center at Tbilisi State University.  It was an honor to be involved from the beginning and to watch the program grow.  That center has now taught numerous judges, lawyers and law students, as well as running the first nationwide mediation law school competition.

"Mediation has now become a recognized part of their legal system.  It is no longer academic in nature; it is being used in real cases every day.  The development has taken place so quickly they are now looking for ways to regulate mediators.

"It was a surprise and an honor to be asked to participate in a UNDP Conference," she added. "It was my previous work in Georgia and my role as educational representative for the Texas Mediator Credentialing Association that led to me being asked to speak on the voluntary credentialing model in Texas."

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