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From August 19 to 23, a summer school focused on mediation law was held for 40 select students and 6 trainers of free legal clinics at the Tashkent State University of Law (TSUL) and the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED). This week-long training programme was organized by the ‘Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan’ project as jointly implemented by the USAID, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan and UNDP, and hosted by the ‘Layner’ mountain resort complex.

The goal of this summer school was to form for its participants a concrete understanding of the nature of mediation law and its differences from dispute resolution through courts, and of the main aspects of mediation processes as outlined through the law ‘On Mediation’, while also building on related skillsets. Through this training the participants became acquainted with the mediation process, its legal regulations and practical application, and it is expected that they will apply what they have learnt in their work in providing free legal aid to Uzbekistan’s citizens.

On January 1, 2019, the law ‘On Mediation’ came into force and simultaneously the need to establish a professional corps of mediators became apparent, in turn requiring the creation of new training programmes. Being an inexpensive and private means of putting forward legal concerns and complaints, mediation law is ideally suited for addressing family and labour disputes, and indeed these matters are already being addressed extensively through the work of student clinicians at the TSUL and UWED legal clinics.

Accordingly, this past week’s training for students and teachers at legal clinics helped to achieve a number of key outcomes. It opened the mediator career direction for attending legal students, it developed their professional mediation skills which can applied in offering free legal assistance through legal clinics, and it has helped to enhance both the professional and personal communication skills of its participants.

The five-day training covered a broad number of theoretical and practical topics. It sought to familiarize its participants regarding the content of the law ‘On Mediation’ and to form an understanding of what mediation is, how it is used, how it differs from other methods of dispute resolution, and to create an understanding of who can and cannot be mediators. It enhanced their understanding of the knowledge, skills and abilities that mediators should possess, and raised their awareness of relevant ethical standards.

In addition, the training improved participant awareness of the roles mediators and other parties play in the mediation process, and outlined how a request for mediation is formed, what the stages of the mediation process are, and what are the best means of reaching mediation agreements. The training also provided essential background information regarding the psychology behind mediation, ensuring that the participating clinicians have the ability to most effectively engage with the members of the public that they are seeking to assist.

The summer school was led by four trainers. The two national trainers in attendance included Farangis Khasanova, chair of international private law and civil law disciplines at UWED, and Nadejda Bezurchenko, advocate from Nukus city and former leader of the legal clinic of the Karakalpak State University. Also attending were two foreign trainers including Olga Rogacheva, professor of the chair of administrative law and procedure and the director of the legal clinic of the law faculty of Russia’s Voronezh State University, and Alesia Pukhova, chief of the department of common legal work of EPAM systems in Belorussia.

Mediation is a common legal practice implemented in nations around the globe, and it also mirrors traditional means of resolving conflicts within Uzbek communities, where respected figures and community elders have historically served as unofficial mediators in disputes. Since being officially incorporated into Uzbekistan’s judicial system, mediation has had the potential to be an important alternative to resolving conflicts through traditional court systems, by being private, time-efficient, inexpensive, and focusing on mutually-beneficial reconciliation.

Mediation law has helped to meet the legal requirements of Uzbekistan’s 230,000+ body of entrepreneurs, who have a particular interest in minimising time and financial costs when addressing conflicts through legal means, and also those of citizens seeking resolution of domestic and private issues with guaranteed confidentiality. Combined with the application of new practical tools such as the E-SUD e-justice system, mediation law also has the potential to speed the processes through which Uzbekistan’s legal system resolves cases.

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