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The 3rd Inter-University Mediation Competition

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10 May 2019
The 3rd Inter-University Mediation Competition
UNESCO Beirut, in partnership with the Professional Center for Mediation (CPM) at the University of Saint Joseph (USJ), launched on 2 May 2019, and for the third consecutive year, the Inter-University Mediation Competition, at USJ, Amphitheater Gulbenkian. Organized in collaboration with the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ-ZFD), the competition aims at promoting the spirit of mediation and peaceful resolution of conflicts in the minds of youth.
The competition is part of a training program in mediation that took place between January and March 2019, and that targeted 250 students from 9 Lebanese universities. At the end of the training, 20 teams of 52 students representing the 9 universities participated in the competition. For four days, students competed on mediating conflicts and settling disputes peacefully based on case studies that were specifically designed for the competition. In total, 34 sessions of mediation took place, in two languages (French and Arabic). They were facilitated by 90 mediators, coaches, trainers, jury members, and supervisors.

At the launch ceremony, Mrs Joanna Hawari Bou Rjeili, director of the CPM, pointed out that mediation encourages the parties to “abandon power relations and engage in cooperative effort to achieve a common goal.” Bou Rjeili noted that the mission of the CPM, established in 2006, is to spread and promote the culture of mediation, among a wide spectrum of actors, including teachers, students, youth, university staff, and alumni.

As to Ms Urte Luetzen and Ms Justine Abi Saad, representatives of the GIZ-ZFD, they staged an argument between a mother and her daughter. At the end of their theatrical performance, they said: "In a conflict, we enter into a vicious circle of attack and counter-attack. One of the means to get out of this vicious circle is to listen to the needs of the other, and engage in mediation".

UNESCO Beirut’s Programme Officer for Basic Education and representative of UNESCO Beirut’s director, Mrs Maysoun Chehab, said in her speech: “We talk about mediation as a way for peace during critical times for humanity. Poverty remains enduring, just as inequalities are deepening. Conflicts continue to tear societies apart, exposing millions of women and men to immense suffering. Violent extremism is on the rise. The world is facing the most important refugee and displacement crisis of our time. World Heritage sites are destroyed to eradicate the message of tolerance and dialogue that they embody. The planet faces rising pressures from the consequences of climate change. All of this weakens the foundations for peace and highlights the vital importance of global action, guided by the values and principles of the United Nations”.

Ms Chehab addressed the students participating in the competition: “As the whole world is rethinking education systems and content nowadays, as the whole world is talking about the 21st century skills, the skills of mediation, dialogue, critical thinking, and communication are given the most importance. We are talking here about the most relevant, 21st century skills that prepare you for the future and enable you to address the major challenges and opportunities of our times. In addition, those skills will support you to preserving the cultural diversity and to promoting a culture of dialogue and peace in the face of violence, division, and hate. That is why UNESCO believes in the importance of this initiative, its objectives, and courses”.

AUF Beirut Regional Office Director, Mr Herve Savourin, highlighted the “symbolic dimension” of this competition, as it “perfectly illustrates the ability of the academic world to address issues that impact the overall development of our societies; it brings together young students around values that are at the heart of the francophonie, the values dialogue, tolerance, and living together; and it promotes linguistic diversity, as the mediation sessions happen in Arabic and French”.

Finally, Father Michel Scheuer, vice-rector of USJ, and representative of rector Father Salim Daccache, asserted: “We are pleased to host this inter-university competition on mediation, for three reasons. First, because mediation is a crucial step towards ending disagreements and conflicts. Second, because by training students on mediation, we offer a service to society. Third, because the inter-university character of this competition is highly important, especially in our region where universities are often seen as competitors rather than partners”.

On 6 May 2019, the final sessions took place, and two universities were qualified for the 1st Prize: the Lebanese University (students Jana Abdallah Bassil, Nelly Akiki et Alondra Feghali), and USEK (students Lena Hawat, Karen Hajj, and Léa Laoun).

Read more in Arabic and French.