Mediation Qld: Keystone Principles

Mediation QldThe AMA fully embraces the concepts and ideology that resulted from the Keystone conference “Consolidating our Collective Wisdom” on October 8-11, 2006 jointly convened by The Keystone Center and Mediate.com.

In general, the AMA is the next generation of mediators and facilitators engaged in mediation Qld who are urged to focus their attention on the following:

1. Stop Dithering and Get Organised (Or Not)

The last two decades have been a time of experimentation, development, and in certain areas, progressive institutionalisation. The current community of senior conflict resolvers, however, has not organised itself as a coherent profession, field, movement, or discipline. The next generation must move beyond the seemingly endless introspective definitional debates and accept as fact that we are a unified profession and to get on with the hard political tasks of organising it.

2. Put the House in Order

There is growing concern that none of the existing umbrella organisations have fully lived up to their potential to bring together and unify the various strands and application areas of mediation.  Sectored interests in family mediation, court mediation, environmental mediation, and community mediation continue to be strong but effective bridges across these application areas have not yet been built. The AMA has  great potential as a consolidated home for the different strands and applications of conflict resolution and it will employ fresh thinking, fresh energy, and fresh strategies.

3. Influence the World

Although much has been accomplished over the last three decades, those with seniority in the field have been much too tentative and introspective. To have greater impact, the next generation must look for new ways to engage the popular and political cultures and the private, public, and civic sector clients we work with.

One formal output towards this end was the following statement which was affirmed with the signatures of most of those who attended:
Given that the world is confronted with real and perceived threats from several international arenas we, the undersigned, urge that citizens of our nations insist their elected and appointed government officials immediately engage in honest, direct and unconditional negotiations with all authorities and powers who can resolve these pending crises in ways that are equitable and practical for all concerned without sacrifice to national sovereignty or security. As citizens of the world and as professional negotiators and mediators we urge that proven conflict resolution processes be employed now.

In addition to maximizing the use of effective negotiation and mediation, the above statement signals both the birth of a nascent International Coalition of Concerned Mediators and the beginning of a more organized effort at bringing civility into our national and international negotiation and conflict resolution discussions. The need to convert real and potential conflicts into mutually productive negotiations grows increasingly urgent. Signatories and membership can be joined at www.concernedmediators.org.

4. Step up the Quest to Diversify

The makeup of the community of conflict resolvers is still overwhelmingly white. Good efforts to diversify the field and populate it in ways that look more like our societies have been made but much more needs to be done. Diversity continues to be a major challenge that will face the next generation.

5. Reaffirm the Fundamentals of Mediation

Although the many practices of mediation seem fragmented from each other and overly self-absorbed on the role of the mediator, an affirmation of certain fundamentals continues to be important. Definitions and philosophies of mediation will always vary whenever and wherever training and institutionalisation take place. Nonetheless, at least five principles seem critical. First, mediation is a voluntary and supplementary process and should not be used to substitute for or jeopardise participation in other due process procedures.

Second, it should continue to remain a confidential process and efforts to undermine this should be resisted.

Third, participation in mediation should be “eyes open” and premised on informed consent.

Fourth, parties must retain a free choice of neutrals (who have adequately revealed any conflicts of interest).

Fifth, parties with standing or interest should have full and equal access to a mediation forum to help resolve matters to the highest satisfaction and full self-determination of their own negotiated outcomes.

6. Expand the Intellectual Boundaries of Mediation

Much of the writing and research about mediation is repetitious, unoriginal, and self-perpetuating in its thinking. It may also be much too focused on the role and stance of the mediator and insufficient in its attention on the parties. The theory and practice of mediation draws from interdisciplinary sources as diverse as economics, psychology, law, business, anthropology, and international relations. As mediation evolves to its next stage, it may best be informed by frontier fields such as neuro-biology, behavioral economics, and advanced systems theory no less than the older wisdoms of ancient philosophers ranging from Socrates, Mohammed, and the Buddha.

7. Utilise New Technologies

New cyber and cellular technologies offer extraordinary opportunities to assist people in resolving conflicts. Recognising that technologies can be adapted and used in many ways, mediators and facilitators who do not stay abreast of such developments may find themselves increasingly marginalised and irrelevant. Experimentation and use of these technologies should be encouraged. For mediation Qld these services are rapidly becoming available.

8. Encourage Practical Research

Similar to the greater bulk of the writing that has taken place in the last twenty years, much of the research in the mediation arena has been conventional and unconvincing to decision-makers who control funding and influence the supply and demand of mediated conflict resolution. A new generation of research is needed to more definitively understand its impacts, how and when various forms of mediation are and are not effective, and how various dispute resolution processes can best be effectively and efficiently used towards different ends.

9. Emphasize Cultural Competencies

Our societies are diverse, multi-ethnic, and cross-cultural and likely to become more so. This requires better understandings of cultural factors and the dynamics that pertain to communication, negotiation, and resolution.

10. Use Our Own Procedures. As mediators struggle to start or accelerate practices, disputes are inevitable. The acid test of our collective belief in mediation is whether we use it ourselves when personal or professional conflicts arise. If we do not set the example and demonstrate its utility, we should have no expectation that others will find the value we are convinced lies in it.

For more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Australian mediation Association, for Mediation Qld.

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