2018 Internship Fellow Spotlight: Arianna Diaz


HRI Summer 2018 Internship Fellow, Arianna Diaz, tells us about her internship experience at the Croatian Mediation Association in Zagreb, Croatia.
View from the Croatian Mediation Association’s Balcony
View from the Croatian Mediation Association’s Balcony

Croatia is a beautiful, vibrant, and welcoming little country located in the Balkan region, bordering the countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, Hungary, Monte Negro, and Serbia.  I lived and worked in the city of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. This location was great due its proximity to NGOs, government ministries, embassies, legal institutions, and schools.

Within Croatia, mediation as an alternative dispute resolution tactic is not common knowledge. In fact, a joke I encountered during my internship was that when offering mediation services, people often thought we meant meditation services. When compounded by cultural values and a legacy of socialism, war, and displacement in the region, this peaceful dispute resolution practice is generally treated with distrust. In response, the Croatian Mediation Association, known as Hrvatska Udraga za Mirenje (HUM) in Croatian, formed to establish itself as a leading mediation provider consisting of a team of dedicated mediators who utilize their talents as judges, lawyers, legal students, and working professionals. Using legal advocacy and public education initiatives, HUM seeks to normalize mediation within Croatian law and society to promote human rights, democratic transition, and peaceful dispute resolution.

 

Croatia Diaz First Day
Me on the right during the first day of my internship!

I am completing a double major in Global Studies and English, and double minor in Human Rights and Middle Eastern Studies. Therefore, I wanted experience in using dialogue facilitation to participate in post-conflict restoration, transitional justice, and promoting international negations. My mediation internship made me acutely aware of the role communication plays in preserving human rights protections and overcoming language, educational, and cultural barriers. My supervisor Suzanna and coworker Tea exposed me to this when giving me mediation and negotiation training. As mediation is negotiating a dispute resolution with the help of a third party, it is essential that the mediator be able to listen, reflect, and incorporate their background research on the source of the conflict in order to successfully guide reconciliation discussion. Mediators do this by using open questions such as “who, what, where, when, why, and how?” as these questions avoid the restrictive nature of yes or no questions. Furthermore, a mediators must also encourage parties to use “I Statements” that follow the structure of “I feel ____, because ____ , when ____ , what I need ____.” This format enables parties to move past their individual bias and emotional responses to focus on the situation and reach a settlement that suits both parties.

 

Meeting Anna, the director of the National Center
Meeting Anna, the director of the National Center

HUM’s advocacy platform also includes creating a network of likeminded agencies and civil organizations that seek to promote mediation and preserve peaceful dispute resolution. Therefore, while often based at HUM’s office gaining skills in mediation and negotiation I also frequently conducted field visits to HUM’s partner organizations to observe how mediation is presented and promoted within diverse settings. My first field visit was to the National Call Center for Victim Support at the Ministry of Justice. Since establishing the definition of Victim in Croatian law and social services 10 years ago, the National Call Center for Victim support has been essential to Croatia’s ability to address victims’ rights and domestic violence. This is done by receiving anonymous calls, recording the violence and harassment described, and referring the caller to relevant government agencies, law enforcement, NGOs, and victim shelters. This also includes advising the caller on how to receive legal services, presenting an opportunity for mediation.

Visiting a local school in Zagreb with FFE
Visiting a local school in Zagreb with FFE

I was also fortunate to spend a few days at the Forum for Freedom of Education (FFE) to witness how peer mediation takes place within primary and secondary schools. FFE’s mission seeks to harmonize Croatia’s education system with modern society by using principles of mediation and collaborating with schools and NGOs. I was particularly interested in FFE’s goal of democratizing schools and promoting civic education. Considering Croatia’s recent history of socialism, FFE finds it necessary to teach students how to be active citizens and promote critical thinking regarding civil discourse, politics, and activism. This also includes incorporating aspects of cultural mediation within primary and secondary schools in response to large scale refugee migration inflows into Europe. In particular. FFE has conducted multiple civic initiatives that highlight how Croatian students perceive migrants, multiculturalism, and diversity within their own communities.

 

Pamphlet from UNHCR & JRS conference
Pamphlet from UNHCR & JRS conference

Additionally, HUM was incredibly considerate in incorporating my studies and interests in transnational migration into this internship. I am grateful to have spent World Refugee Week going to a joint United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) conference, another conference on the educational integration of child refugees in Croatia, and conducting a field visit to Zagreb’s Jesuit Refugee Services office. From my attendance at both conferences and JRS’ office I’ve come to understand that Croatia is attempting to come to terms with their transition from serving mainly as a “transit country” within the Balkan Route that refugees traveled through to settle elsewhere in Europe into a permanent country of asylum for an increasing number of refugees.” In fact, most NGOs, refugee service providers, and government officials speak about refugee integration with a future tense, indicative to how conversations regarding the long-term residency of refugees is only just beginning within Croatian society.

 

 

My last day at the Croatian Mediation Association
My last day at the Croatian Mediation Association

Within my internship at the Croatian Mediation Association I have observed and learned how mediation can change society, as well as partook in Croatian efforts to establish mediation as a method of advocacy, reconciliation, and dispelling xenophobia. Through my field visits and mediation training I’ve learned that mediation, while defined as an out of court legal alternative dispute resolution practice, is so incredibly diverse it can take place within all sectors of society whether it be local neighborhoods, schools, legal education, corporations, NGOs, social services, government ministries, and many more. This internship has solidified my interests in conflict resolution, particularly related to host communities’ tensions towards migrants and international responses to humanitarian responses.

 

 

 

Thanks to the Human Rights Institute and the Victor Schachter ’64 Rule of Law Award I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a Human Rights Fellowship at the Croatian Mediation Association.