Mediation

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Februarie 23, 2012 prin Autorul

Mediation, as used in law, is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties. A third party, the mediator, assists the parties tonegotiate their own settlement (facilitative mediation). In some cases, mediators may express a view on what might be a fair or reasonable settlement, generally where all the parties agree that the mediator may do so (evaluative mediation).

Mediation has a structure, timetable and dynamics that „ordinary” negotiation lacks. The process is private and confidential. The presence of a mediator is the key distinguishing feature of the process. There may be no obligation to go to mediation, but in some cases, any settlement agreement signed by the parties to a dispute will be binding on them.

Mediators use various techniques to open, or improve, dialogue between disputants, aiming to help the parties reach an agreement (with concrete effects) on the disputed matter. Much depends on the mediator’s skill and training. The mediator must be wholly impartial. Disputants may use mediation in a variety of disputes, such as commercial, legal, diplomatic, workplace, community and family matters. A third-party representative may contract andmediate between (say) unions and corporations. When a workers’ union goes on strike, a dispute takes place, the parties may agree to a third party to settle a contract or agreement between the union and the corporation.

History of mediation

The activity of mediation in itself appeared in very ancient times. Historians presume early cases in Phoenician commerce (but suppose its use in Babylon, too). The practice developed in Ancient Greece (which knew the non-maritalmediator as a proxenetas), then in Romancivilization, (Roman law, starting from Justinian’Digest of 530 – 533 CE) recognized mediation. The Romans called mediators by a variety of names, including internunciusmediumintercessorphilantropusinterpolatorconciliatorinterlocutorinterpres, and finallymediator.

Some cultures regarded the mediator as a sacred figure, worthy of particular respect; and the role partly overlapped with that of traditional wise men or tribal chief. Members of peaceful communities frequently brought disputes before local leaders or wise men to resolve local conflicts. This peaceful method of resolving conflicts was particularly prevalent in communities of Confucians and Buddists.[2]    

Mediation and conciliation

„Conciliation” sometimes serves as an umbrella-term that covers all mediation and facilitative and advisory dispute-resolution processes.Neither process determines an outcome, and both share many similarities. For example, both processes involve a neutral third-party who has no enforcing powers.

One significant difference between conciliation and mediation lies in the fact that conciliators possess expert knowledge of the domain in which they conciliate. The conciliator can make suggestions for settlement terms and can give advice on the subject-matter. Conciliators may also use their role to actively encourage the parties to come to a resolution. In certain types of dispute the conciliator has a duty to provide legal information. This helps any agreement reached to comply with any relevant statutory framework pertaining to the dispute. Therefore conciliation may include an advisory aspect.

Mediation works purely facilitative: the practitioner has no advisory role. Instead, a mediator seeks to help parties to develop a shared understanding of the conflict and to work toward building a practical and lasting resolution.

Several different styles of mediation exist: evaluative, facilitative, and transformativeEvaluative mediation has somewhat of an advisory role in that its practitioners evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s argument should they go to court; whereas facilitative mediators andtransformative mediators do not do this.

Furthermore, the definitions of mediation used by the different styles ofmediation differ in that evaluative mediation has the main drive and goal of settlement, while transformative mediation, in contrast, looks at conflict as a crisis in communication and seeks to help resolve the conflict, thereby allowing people to feel empowered in themselves and better about each other. The agreement that arises from this type of mediation occurs as a natural outcome of the resolution of conflict.

Both mediation and conciliation serve to identify the disputed issues and to generate options that help disputants reach a mutually-satisfactory resolution. They both offer relatively flexible processes; and any settlement reached should have the agreement of all parties. This contrasts with litigation, which normally settles the dispute in favour of the party with the strongest legal argument. In-between the two operates collaborative law, which uses a facilitative process where each party has counsel.

Mediation and Counselling

 A counsellor generally uses therapeutic techniques. Some – such as a particular line of questioning – may be useful in mediation. But the role of the counsellor differs from the role of the mediator. The list below is not exhaustive but it gives an indication of important distinctions between the work of mediators and counsellors.

  • A mediator aims for clear agreement between the participants as to how they will deal with specific issues. A counsellor is more concerned with the parties gaining a better self-understanding of their individual behaviour
  • A mediator, while acknowledging a person’s feelings, does not explore them in any depth. A counsellor is fundamentally concerned about how people feel about a range of relevant experiences
  • A mediator is focused upon how people would like to see things in the future rather than a detailed analysis of past events. A counsellor may find it necessary to explore a person’s past in detail to bring out into the open the origins and the patterns of a person’s beliefs and behaviour
  • A mediator controls the process but does not overtly try to influence the participants or the actual outcome. A counsellor often takes an intentional role in the process, seeking to influence the parties to move in a particular direction or look at certain issues
  • A mediator relies on both parties being present so they can negotiate, usually face-to-face. A counsellor does not necessarily see both parties at the same time.
  • A mediator is required to be neutral. A counsellor may play a more supportive role, where appropriate.
  • Mediation requires both parties to be willing to negotiate. Counselling may work with one party even if the other is not ready or willing for change.
  • Mediation is a structured process that is usually restricted to one or a few sessions. Counselling tends to be more ongoing, depending upon a person’s needs and progress.
  • Why choose mediation

    Several reasons exist for choosing mediation over other channels of dispute resolution (such as those involving attorneys and courts).

    • Parties to a dispute may choose mediation as (often) a less expensive route to follow for dispute resolution. While a mediatormay charge a fee comparable to that of an attorney, the mediation process generally takes much less time than moving a case through standard legal channels. While a case in the hands of a lawyer or filed in court may take months or even years to resolve, a case in mediation usually achieves a resolution in a matter of hours. Taking less time means expending less money on hourly fees and costs.
    • Mediation offers a confidential process. While court hearings of cases happen in public, whatever happens in mediation remains strictly confidential. No one but the parties to the dispute and the mediator(s) know what has gone on in the mediation forum. In fact,confidentiality in mediation has such importance that in most cases the legal system cannot force a mediator to testify in court as to the content or progress of mediation. Many mediators actually destroy their notes taken during a mediation once that mediationhas finished. The only exceptions to such strict confidentiality usually involve child abuse or actual or threatened criminal acts.
    • Mediation offers multiple and flexible possibilities for resolving a dispute and for the control the parties have over the resolution. In a case filed in court, the parties will obtain a resolution, but a resolution thrust upon the parties by the judge or jury. The result probably will leave neither party to the dispute totally happy. Inmediation, on the other hand, the parties have control over the resolution, and the resolution can be unique to the dispute. Often, solutions developed by the parties are ones that a judge or jury could not provide. Thus, mediation is more likely to produce a result that is mutually agreeable, or win/win, for the parties. And because the result is attained by the parties working together and is mutually agreeable, the compliance with the mediatedagreement is usually high. This also results in less costs, because the parties do not have to seek out the aid of an attorney to force compliance with the agreement. The mediated agreement is, however, fully enforceable in a court of law.
    • The mediation process consists of a mutual endeavor. Unlike in negotiations (where parties are often entrenched in their positions), parties to a mediation usually seek out mediationbecause they are ready to work toward a resolution to their dispute. The mere fact that parties are willing to mediate in most circumstances means that they are ready to „move” their position. Since both parties are willing to work toward resolving the case, they are more likely to work with one another than against one another. The parties thus are amenable to understanding the other party’s side and work on underlying issues to the dispute. This has the added benefit of often preserving the relationship the parties had before the dispute.
    • Finally, but certainly not least, and as mentioned earlier in this article, the mediation takes place with the aid of a mediator who is a neutral third party. A good mediator is trained in conflict resolution and in working with difficult situations. The goodmediator is likely to work as much with the emotional aspects and relationship aspects of a case as he or she is to work on the „topical” issues of the matter. The mediator, as a neutral, gives no legal advice, but guides the parties through the problem solving process. The mediator may or may not suggest alternative solutions to the dispute. Whether he or she offers advice or not, thetrained mediator helps the parties think „outside of the box” for possible solutions to the dispute, thus enabling the parties to find the avenue to dispute resolution that suits them best.

    Early neutral evaluation and mediation

    The technique of early neutral evaluation (ENE) provides early focus in complex commercial disputes, and — based on that focus — offers a basis for sensible case-management or a suggested resolution of the entire case in its very early stages.

    In early neutral evaluation, an evaluator acts as a neutral person to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each of the parties and to discuss the same with parties jointly or in caucuses, so that parties gain awareness (via independent evaluation) of the merits of their case. In the case of mediation, solutions normally emerge from the parties themselves and mediators endeavour to find the most acceptable solution by bridging gaps between the parties.

    Parties generally call on a senior counsel or on a panel with expertise and experience in the subject-matter under dispute in order to conduct ENE. One refers to such persons as „evaluators” or as „neutral persons”.

    Mediator education and training

    Suitable education and training for mediators becomes a complex issue — largely due to the breadth of areas which may call on mediation as a means of dispute-resolution. Debate ensues on what constitutes adequate training on the principles of mediation as well as what personal attributes an individual needs in order to effectively carry out a mediator’s role.

    The educational requirements for accreditation as a mediator differ between accrediting groups and from country to country. In some cases legislation mandates these requirements; while in others professional bodies impose standards and applicants must comply prior to becoming accredited by them. Many US universities offer graduate studies in mediation, culminating in the PhD or DMed degrees.

    In Australia, for example, professionals wanting to practice in the area of family law must have tertiary qualifications in law or in social science, undertake 5 days training in mediation and engage in at least 10 hours of supervised mediation. Furthermore, they must also undertake 12 hours of mediation-education or training every 12 months.

    Other institutions offer units in mediation across a number of disciplines such as law, social science, business and the humanities. In Australia not all fields of mediation-work require academic qualifications, as some deal more with practical skills rather than with theoretical knowledge: to this end membership-organizations provide training-courses to further the adoption and practice of mediation. Internationally a similar approach to the training of mediators is taken by organizations such as the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution.

    There are no legislated national or international standards on the level of education that apply to all mediation practitioner’s organizations. However, organizations such as the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC) in Australia continue to advocate for a wide scope on such issues. Other systems apply in other jurisdictions such as Germany, which advocates a higher level of educational qualification for practitioners of mediation.

    Mediator codes of conduct

    The application of a code of conduct to the practice of mediation becomes problematic — due in part to the diverse number and type of practitioners in the field. A tendency exists for professional societies to develop their own codes of conduct, which apply to their own members.Examples of this in Australia include the mediation codes of conduct developed by the Law Societies of South Australia and Western Australia and those developed by organisations such as Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia (IAMA) and LEADR for use by their members. Other organizations such as the American Center for Conflict Resolution Institute ([www.accri.org]) have developed both classroom and distance learning courses which subscribe to its mission of promoting peace through education. The CPR/Georgetown Ethics Commission (www.cpradr.org), the Mediation Forum of the Union International des Avocats, and the European Commission have also promulgated codes of conduct for mediators.

    Writers in the field of mediation normally espouse a code of conduct that mirrors the underlying principles of the mediation process. In this respect some of the most common aspects of a mediator codes of conduct include:

    • a commitment to inform participants as to the process ofmediation.
    • the need to adopt a neutral stance towards all parties to the mediation, revealing any potential conflicts of interest.
    • the requirement for a mediator to conduct the mediation in an impartial manner
    • within the bounds of the legal framework under which themediation is undertaken any information gained by the mediators should be treated as confidential.
    • mediators should be mindful of the psychological and physical wellbeing of all the mediations participants.
    • mediators should not offer legal advice, rather they should direct participants to appropriate sources for the provision of any advice they might need.
    • mediators should seek to maintain their skills by engaging in ongoing training in the mediation process.
    • mediators should practise only in those fields in which they have expertise gained by their own experience or training.

    In France, professional mediators have created an organization to develop a rational approach to conflict resolution. This approach is based on a scientific definition of a person and a conflict. It helps to develop a structured process of mediation interviews and meetings of the parties. Technology mediators are particularly advanced in terms of accompanying changes induced by the dynamics of conflict. Mediatorshave adopted a code of ethics which provides the protagonists guarantees professionalism.

     

    Accreditation of ADR in Australia

    The National Mediator Accreditation System (NMAS) commenced operation on 1 January 2008. It is an industry based scheme which relies on voluntary compliance by mediator organisations that agree to accredit mediators in accordance with the requisite standards.

    ADR practitioners recognize that mediators (as distinct from arbitrators or conciliators) need to be recognized as having professional accreditations the most. There are a range of organizations within Australia that do have extensive and comprehensive accreditations formediators but people that use mediation are unsure as to what level of accreditation is required for the quality of service that they receive. Standards will tend to vary according to the specific mediation and the level of specificity that is desired. Due to the wide range of ADR processes that are conducted it would be very difficult to have a set of standards that could apply to all ADR processes, but standards should be developed for particular ADR processes

    Clients need the assurance that mediators have some form of ongoing assessment and training throughout their careers.Mediators must satisfy different criteria to be eligible for a variety of mediator panels. Alsodifferent mediator organizations have different ideals of what makes a good mediator which in turn reflects the training and accreditation of that particular organization. Selection processes for ADR practitioners are based on the needs of the service, but a problem is posed when organizations, such as the court want to refer a client to mediation and they usually have to rely on their in-house mediators or rely on word of mouth. There are inconsistent standards. A national accreditation system could very well enhance the quality and ethics of mediation and lead mediation to become more accountable. There is a need for a unified accreditation system for mediators across Australia to establish clarity and consistency.

    Mediator Petru Mustateanu

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