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Reflections from Scotland on a momentous day

Friends

On this referendum day in Scotland, I am writing this piece without knowing the outcome. By the time most of you read this, our future will be clearer. And by then, whatever the outcome, the work of restoration, healing and moving forward together will have commenced.

Some years ago I worked as a mediator in Malawi with a large group of people who represented several sides in a dispute. We had three days of workshops and negotiations. On the first day, we played what we call The Gain Game. This is a development of The Prisoners’ Dilemma, a well-known exercise in game theory. Anyway, the learning is simple. Those who cooperate sensibly tend to achieve more successful outcomes than [...]

The Scottish Referendum: Torture for a Mediator

Saltire and union flag

Five days from now Scotland may be on its way to becoming the world’s newest country. Or it may not. Just over four million of us will vote on September 18th to determine future political arrangements on the British Isles (affecting some sixty million others). Depending on your point of view, you might say with Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The best of times: there is a tremendous energy about the place; the world’s media (even England’s) has descended; people are debating in families, pubs, cafes and street corners; there is a surge in national pride; poets, singers and artists are dreaming dreams of a better world.

The worst of times: there is h [...]

Singapore Developments – Settlement Agreements and Division of Matrimonial Property

I would like to spend this month’s entry reporting on the recent developments in the Singapore Court of Appeal. The case of Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh v Sita Jaswant Kaur [2014] SGCA 37 make a number of pronouncements about the status of settlement agreements brought about by mediation in the context of the division of matrimonial assets.

The facts can be stated briefly. The parties had been married for 35 years and obtained an interim judgement for divorce before turning to the ancillary matters of maintenance and division of matrimonial assets. The parties resolved these ancillary matters through mediation and the settlement agreement provided that the settlement was subject to the [...]

The Scottish Referendum: Torture for a Mediator

Saltire and union flag

Five days from now Scotland may be on its way to becoming the world’s newest country. Or it may not. Just over four million of us will vote on September 18th to determine future political arrangements on the British Isles (affecting some sixty million others). Depending on your point of view, you might say with Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The best of times: there is a tremendous energy about the place; the world’s media (even England’s) has descended; people are debating in families, pubs, cafes and street corners; there is a surge in national pride; poets, singers and artists are dreaming dreams of a better world.

The worst of times: ther [...]

More free mediation sessions for separating couples in the UK

The UK Government seeks to implement “the most significant family justice system reforms in a generation.” In late August it published ‘A Brighter Future for Family Justice’ report, and announced a new program of free mediation sessions for separating couples.

It comes as no surprise that this issue is attracting political attention. The statistics speak for themselves: 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. More than 236,000 people divorced in 2012. Almost half (48%) of divorces involve children under 16 years. On the other hand, the empirical data prove the effectiveness of mediation. Last year nearly two thirds of couples who attended a single mediation session for [...]

Creativity and Conflict – A Conference Report

The weekend past saw Irish and international conflict resolution professionals gather in the (sunny!) leafy setting of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth for a conference entitled “Where next? Creative Responses to Conflict through Mediation and Restorative Practice”. With an ambitious broad ambit, the conference features no less than 60 speakers, presenting on an enormous spectrum of topics including topics related to mediation techniques and sectors, international and interpersonal conflict, restorative justice and peacebuilding. Key note speakers included international experts such as Michael Lang, Dale Bagshaw, Janine Geske, Jennifer Beer and Michelle LeBaron.

In an unusual [...]

Getting to Yes…or No?!

On Thursday 4 September, Collaborative Scotland hosts a Day of Dialogue which will focus on respect and reconciliation in the lead up to, and after, the independence referendum in Scotland on 18 September. It is not about Yes and No but how we will live and work together regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

Conversationalists include David Melding, the deputy presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, Conservative politician, and author of Reforming the Union: Britain as a Federation, who will address the wider constitutional issues in the British Isles with Conor Murphy, a Sinn Fein MP and influential figure in Northern Ireland politics. At lunchtime, Douglas Alexander, MP, shadow fo [...]

The Negotiation Campaign

Negotiations are like political campaigns. It is an organized effort to influence decision makers. “How” and “When” to begin the campaign are fundamental questions to examine before actually engaging in the formal negotiation. Consider the first presidential campaign of Barack Obama. While the election was in 2008, the campaign began before 2004 when the Democratic Party identified Obama as a rising star and selected him do the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. It was in that speech that he famously set the stage for his own political future by stating: “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s [...]

Risk and reconciliation

This blog entry will take a more personal tone than have earlier ones – though it’s in the nature of blogs and the more informal style that they have all said something of the experience of the writers. I want to explore here the role of mediation in providing the opportunity for reconciliation, and to see reconciliation as something wider than the more obviously conflict-saturated settings, such as post-Apartheid South Africa, post-conflict Rwanda, and so on. While I’ll start with a more dramatic setting, I do wonder whether there’s an element of reconciliation – or rapprochement – in many ‘normal’ mediations: a movement towards each other, by the parties, fostered by the setting, [...]

Deal or no deal in high profile hockey case?

Hockey is a deeply ingrained part of the Canadian identity so it’s not surprising that the Country has been abuzz this week around the question: “Has a high profile 10-year old case been settled through mediation or not?”

The case, Moore v. Bertuzzi et al,  arose from events that occurred during a National Hockey League (NHL) match in March 0f 2004. The incident has its own Wikipedia page which can be viewed here. The ending of Steve Moore’s career spawned a decade long law suit which was coming to trial next month. The trial would have generated considerable interest as it would have involved a full expose of the so-called “fight culture” of the NHL (see here for example); not something th [...]