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On inquiry

This blog entry arises not so much from any mediation, but from one aspect of regular social encounters that is all too normal a part of negotiation and mediation. As the title suggests, it’s about the role of inquiry, asking questions – not merely gathering information, but going beyond that in the expression of interest in one’s social contacts and especially the other disputant. This note also arises from several recent and typically frustrating experiences with people – perfectly regular, friendly, non-combative people – who in, their various ways, exemplified the apparent inability to ask questions.

We’ve all met them; and of course we’ve all seen them in mediations, and if we [...]

And what is your biggest achievement in mediation?

MBB-LogoOnce I was informed by Nan Waller Burnett that her colleagues from the organization Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBB) were heading for Prague and that we might organize a meeting with them I did not hesitate a minute. For the work of this NGO is simply admirable.

How to build more peace “able” world

The MBB was founded in 2006 in order to promote mediation not only in the USA but also worldwide. Its main task is expressed in the following motto: “The only lasting peace is the one built by the disputants themselves.” Hence, the MBB volunteers travel around the globe and teach the disputing parties and different communities the conflict resolution skills. They are defini [...]

Narratives – The Stories We Tell, The Realities We Create

March was a sad month for Singapore. On 23 March 2015, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew passed away at the age of 91. Lee Kuan Yew was a controversial figure. He was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and he was also widely considered as the founding father of Singapore. He was well-regarded by many world leaders and attacked by the international press on his policies and practices.

I do not intend this month’s entry to be a tribute to Lee Kuan Yew’s achievements. Much has already been written about that and I dare say, much more will be written in months and years to come.

I want to devote this month’s entry observing the narratives that surfaced in the news and in social media after Lee Kuan Yew’s pa [...]

Abraham path – let’s go for a walk…

Abraham path was the idea of William Ury and his Harvard colleagues. The idea was to follow in the footsteps of Abraham which is the origin story of the Middle East. The origin story can be phrased: ‘4,000 years ago, a man and his family walked across the Middle East, and the world has never been the same since’. Abraham stood for unity of the family, the family being everyone – the interconnection and unity of all mankind. William Ury sees Abraham’s story as the symbolic third-side of the Middle East, and the path as a link that crosses in and out of 10 countries, some with difficult or what seem impossible conflicts. The idea is that the story of Abraham links all those countries a [...]

Both Textbook and Handbook – a Review of Lisa Parkinson’s “Family Mediation” (3rd edition)

Anxiously awaited by fans of the 1st and 2nd editions of Lisa Parkinson’s definitive work on Family Mediation, the Third Edition of this book was published at the beginning of the year. Drawing on decades of experience and scholarship, Parkinson, one of the “founding mothers” of family mediation in the UK, has produced a comprehensive, up to date text of relevance to a wide variety of audiences. The last few years in the UK have seen dramatic changes to the legal and social environment in which family mediation takes place: changes in legal aid, a family justice review and resulting legislation, developments in child inclusive practice and new standards in training and accreditation. [...]

Gratitude For The Law

Magna_charta_cum_statutis_angliae_p1This year in the UK we are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter”. Signed in 1215, it remains one of the most famous documents in the world, and central to the British constitution. In mediator parlance, it is a “settlement agreement”. It came into being as a compromise between King John of England and the Barons who challenged his authority, and it established for the first time that everyone, including the king, was subject to the law*.

Interestingly, and less well-known, this deal was mediated. Archbishop Stephen Langton stepped into the role, holding separate talks with each side to hear their grievances, and ultimately bringing them together [...]

Reflections on the Current Climate – A Role for Third Siders?

This follows my blog last month about mediation and sustainability. In the run up to the vital COP meeting in Paris in December, what role for mediators and other third siders?

What should we say?

I started this piece a few weeks ago with these words: “From my balcony at nearly 2,000 metres, I can see seven vapour trails above, and as I look to the west, several more. The sky is a patchwork of misty white lines on clear blue. Below, the mountains are also a patchwork, this time a mottled white and grey. Even at this altitude in January, the snowfall is irregular and quite a few slopes are exposed. The main ski runs are open though, and that is a relief. We’ve paid a little extra to come [...]

Working on Water, again: When Collaboration meets Politics

Oz, left to himself, smiled to think of his success in giving the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman and the Lion exactly what they thought they wanted. “How can I help being a humbug,” he said, “when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can’t be done? It was easy to make the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Woodman happy, because they imagined I could do anything.”
Oz, in L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, Ch 16, “The Magic Art of the Great Humbug”

A couple of blogs ago, back in November last year, I discussed what seemed to be a promising and effective process for addressing complex issues of water management and allocation in New Zealand – an expressly collaborative proces [...]

How Mediation Helped Resolved Two Thousand Years Old Mystery…

There is by far no other nation that would contribute to European civilisation with such an enormous portion and that would be so easily forgotten as the Etruscans. According to some authors, their influence to nowadays’ Europe culture is at least comparable to that one of Romans or Greeks. And yet, how many people enjoying a glass of famous Italian wine Chianti know that the first grape wines in the area of Tuscany were planted by Etruscans some two and half thousands years ago? Or do you ever ponder where did the Adriatic Sea take its name from? Only few know that its origin is related to the ancient city of Hadria and that it is related to Etruscan denomination of blue colour. Or how m [...]

Where Have All The Idealists Gone? Long Time Passing

A commentary on the future of mediation, with special thanks to Pete Seeger for inspiration

A recent discussion among a seasoned group of neutrals about the struggles of the professional mediator caught my attention. Some complained that the trend in litigated cases was to reduce the value of the mediator to a commodity, due to the constraints put on them by the litigants who were not process oriented. Others put the responsibility of keeping the process dynamic and interesting on the mediator, the traditional guardian of the process. Whatever the reason, there was a consensus that there is a trend to marginalize the process and the neutral. This quote from an unnamed source summarizes what [...]

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