In early July, I was fortunate enough to attend the World Mediation Organization’s inaugural World Mediation Summit. The conference was held July 1 - 4, 2014, in Madrid at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales (Industrial Engineering School) of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. The next scheduled, and newly renamed, “WMO Symposia” are to take place later this year in Hong Kong, Dallas and Manila, with a June 2015 WMO Symposium to be held in Berlin.
The dream of Daniel Erdmann, Ph.D., of Berlin, director general and founder of the World Mediation Organization (WMO) and professor and director of the School of Mediation at Euclid University, the concept of these symposia was designed to gather ADR professionals from around the world to connect, share their expertise and discuss topics related to conflicts of cross-border and international interest. The initial conference drew more than 100 mediators, attorneys, barristers, judges, scholars and diplomats from 18 different countries, representing Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. The four days were replete with informative presentations, panel discussions and training sessions – as well as plenty of enlightening and invigorating networking.
It appears that only relatively recently has mediation begun to be understood as “important and necessary” in Europe and other areas. Supportive legislation has even been enacted within the last few years. Here are but a few succinct, country-related highlights from some of the presentations.
• Romania: Pursuant to a 2006 law, mediation began to be organized as a profession. A 2008 European Union mediation directive has helped regulate services, quality of training, equal treatment, etc.; nonetheless, in the words of the representative from the Romanian Mediation Council, the only mediation regulatory agency in that country, “Romania is still fighting for mediation.” According to the representative, the country has 9,000 mediators, only a third of which are actually working. They’re still in the process of promoting mediation everywhere, especially in mass media. The government is said to be uninterested in mediation, though the courts are more receptive. Currently, it’s not considered constitutional to require mediation.
• Spain: Here too, the courts are beginning to appreciate the importance of mediation. A July 2012 regulation “made mediation a reality” for civil and commercial disputes. Our conference host, the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales, has formed an organization of mediation-trained engineers (Institución de Mediación de Ingenieros); thus far, 350 have been trained, all with at least 150 hours of training. Elsewhere, since 2006, there have been localized, restorative mediation activities for criminal cases. Valencia, a city of more than 815,000 inhabitants, has instituted a successful police mediation program; it’s been catapulted into a “Proyecto Europeo” (European Project), so as to share the model with other European countries, and has been working well in Italy and Greece, though not as well in Bulgaria.
• Greece: Although mediation has been practiced in Crete since the 13th century, Minoan era, efforts to institute mediation in Greece commenced only in 2007; 350 mediators have now been trained.
• Eastern Caribbean (9 states): As long as a lawsuit is filed, case management or a high court judge will refer cases to mediation; it’s not compulsory, but if the court refers you, compliance is obligatory.
• Italy: There was no real mediation until 2009, when it became compulsory, and in 2010 the Italian Ministry of Justice adopted an executive regulation that called for easy access for all professionals; it involved a “low-intensity,” 50-hour training course and minimal requirements for mediator trainers. A “chaotic” situation ensued, with lawyers divided: While some have seen this as a new professional opportunity, the majority has considered mediation as a “calamity” for their own businesses; they immediately boycotted it, even going on strike. Many other professionals expressed interest in mediation, seeing it as a way to supplement their earnings. Judges were initially confused and suspicious: “Only judges make justice. Mediators do something completely different that is not giving justice to people.” In time, they changed their minds. An October 2012 law overturned a July 2012 law that had mandated mediation, due to the government’s lack of power to impose it. Ultimately, in May 2013, the UE Commission gave its support to mediation and in August of that year enacted a new law that simply required parties to be informed about mediation prior to their initiating a claim. There is said to be poor quality of training, and increased demands from mediation with few resulting mediations.
Some other interesting presentations and workshops included (presenters’ countries indicated parenthetically):
• Mediating complex large group conflicts (Canada): Highlighted was a very challenging, client-services group conflict that involved forty employees, four managers and twenty-nine different ethnicities
• Cross-border divorce mediation and the “two-day attorney-assisted model” (USA): 98% of cases are resolved within two days
• Online dispute resolution (ODR) for mediation (India and UK): Challenges and benefits; new software and processes (ODR was frequently highlighted during the conference)
• Challenges experienced in restructuring complex programs with local governments in war zone environments (Afghanistan)
• Indigenous communities in India (Amnesty International) and other areas (Philippines and Myanmar): Circumstances, conflicts, protections
• Strategies for providing the non-violent resolution of international conflicts (Mediators Beyond Borders): Capacity-building projects that build local organizational and peace-building skills, advocacy projects that promote the appropriate use of mediation worldwide, facilitating dialogue
• Applying psychology to conflict resolution (UK)
• The process and theory of mediation (Spain and Italy)
• Mediating complex cases for international corporations and nations (USA): Fortune 500 companies could take 4 - 9 months
• Missing children of Europe – Family mediation involving transporting children beyond borders (Belgium): Of 700+ cases studied, 47% solved through amicable solutions; must be co-mediated
• Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Egypt and Palestinian Territories)
• Brains matter: The art and science of using the mind in conflict resolution -- Neuroplasticity (USA): Every time you learn something new, it changes your brain! (Admittedly, this session was one of my personal favorites!)
For more information about this valuable conference as well as upcoming WMO Symposia, you might wish to contact Dr. Erdmann directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://worldmediation.org/symposia/.
All the best,