No Standards in Mediation by Daniel Erdmann, February 24, 2016


Mediation in the year 2016: We are currently able to witness a fascinating development regarding the worldwide promotion and settlement through Mediation, as well as its impact and importance at all levels of professional and private life. More often than not, we can observe that in one single country several associations struggle for a leadership position and corresponding professional influence. While educational authorities enter the market by offering a high quantity of trainings and consequently drop the prices for such, based on their roles as competitors. Conferences are offered in all corners of the world trying to attract attendees by creating catchy schedules. Congratulations gentlemen, people are aware of Mediation and its potentials. It looks as we are on the right track.

Being on such a promising track, I often hold back and reflect. These reflections take me back to the point where the initial impulse, namely to create the World Mediation Organization, came from. It makes me remember the original vision and how it manifests nowadays. A decade of work lies behind us – a creative time that offered us lots of challenges and possibilities of professional growth and realization. What I initially wanted to offer is a difference. Such a difference ought to focus on associations that violate the topic of Mediation by asking for membership fees, by creating elite circles of professionals, by dividing the field of practitioners in sufficient and non-sufficient trained professionals, by covering expensive training fees, by holding on to strict educational concepts, by creating complex hierarchies within their organizations, and by dogmatic thinking at its best.

Targeting a new balance in the professional field of Mediation, I was able to offer WMO as a platform for professionals, students, and all type of persons interested in Mediation and in its practical application. No membership fees were raised, publishing of articles was enabled, symposia at minimum costs were offered, and most important: an online training was created that does not define Mediation but offers the student the possibility to discover what Mediation means on an individual basis and how it may be practiced in a very personal way granting space for cultural and religious diversity.

When I look at the group of enthusiastic persons who are engaged, involved, and affiliated to the World Mediation Organization and its mission, I see a wide diversity of faces, cultures, and professional histories. All of them are visionaries and pro-active thinking persons who are longing for initiating a change for the benefit of mankind, namely by reaching people and to enable them to implement Mediation to their fields of action. These people are messengers or better said the WMO Faces of Peace, bound together by the WMO Code of Ethics. The outcome of this common professional vision is a massive group that aims to assist mankind in developing a certain level of self-responsibility, conflict awareness, and dispute management skills.

Having a look around us, we can immediately note that mediation and conflict avoiding and / or preventing skills are highly needed at all levels of life – the professional and private one. By doing research on global conflict, I discovered  data that stated most of the conflicts that currently take place, at least the ones of public awareness and maybe of public interest. I was more than surprised when I noted that I still did not know half of them by name or region. Consequently, I had to remember the purpose and the importance of our WMO Conflict Insight Database, namely to obtain first-hand conflict reports of familiar even remote places and to raise awareness of such in general.

But the fact that our globe is marked all over with major and minor conflicts further made me try to understand the complexity of basic motivation of creating, accepting, and taking part in conflicts. How come people, groups, and nations widely accept finding themselves being actively involved in open or escalated conflict that includes massive attacks on civilians and that often violate human rights? Sure, we often sort out into the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ party, into the active and passive part. But I believe this is not enough. We have to look behind the curtain and ask what happened in the very beginning, and ask ourselves if we are properly instructed to judge? Is it possible for an external to understand the conflict in total? Can we understand all cultural crosslinks and hidden financial interests? So, what type of action made such conflict raise and finally escalate? Can conflicts of such levels be avoided and prevented or does a professional risk management and analysis team decides on the specific procedure, on loss and benefit?

Before starting a reflection on this content, we might have to understand that mediation itself is not a newly developed healing procedure for society, but it forms part of human civilization from the very beginning of our existence. As soon as men organized in social groups, issues were discussed, people had different points of view, contexts where somehow worked out, and any type of escalation was generally avoided. Therefore, we do not need any scientific proof as it is a very basic social necessity and interest of man to co-live with others. Additionally, it was mandatory to make the group enlarge and to exclude as few individuals as possible. One of the key targets of human society is to strengthen the group by membership numbers and to ensure a future beneficial group development. If we need written proof of the age of mediation, we may study at least old Greek and Roman protocols that deal with inter-regional affairs.

A widely ignored field of rich source of applied mediation can be found in the professional field of diplomacy, its historic documents, and practice. I often do have the impression that people are not aware of the fact that mediation skills, such as negotiation and communication strategies, work within micro and macro conflicts. Such procedures and tactical steps may only want to be implemented into a different, smaller or bigger frame of action. I often hear the statement that diplomacy is a separated topic and does not have importance to Mediation. This is mainly communicated by individuals who do not have professional access to cases of international affairs and interest. Personally, I think that it is generally ignored that conflict management, in its broadest perspective, is an interdisciplinary art. The required flexibility of realizing such transactions of knowledge and expertise from minor to mayor conflicts and vice versa, turns pro-active thinking persons into blessed professional beings or masters of the craft.

What we face on a worldwide level is an increasing complexity of global conflicts, and an increasing diversity of motivations to play active part in escalated contexts. This complexity includes a linkage of topics like economic interests, human rights, and terrorism etc. All these fragments often become part of one single conflict, link up with other side conflicts, and manifest in a wide range of diverse aspects. Somehow overwhelming, we may ask ourselves what can be done as a first step? What can we offer as first aid in a case of such a complexity?

I believe that the social structure of our society collapses, and currently supports the future development of this dramatic progress. Due to the fact that the frame of our first education, namely the family, is split up into a two generation household only, our children miss out the additional social concepts that grandparents taught in the past. Thereby, I believe that we offer our future generations a lack of social instruction that normally would create a sustainable social responsibility towards the proper environment of family and community. Such support ought to development a clear personal and cultural identity and a firm personal basis. Such instruction also targets to equip our younger citizens to be able to reject spoiling and alien influences that provoke conflict orientated action, and that mean to be a danger towards our co-existence.

Diversity, being the core of our personal identity, does not only make us realize that there are endless possibilities that individuals find their way towards a participation in escalated conflict, but it might make us understand as well, that there are also endless strategies to work on such conflicts, based on our individual understanding of using the skills of our craft.

Even though the complexity of manifested conflict and individual motivation may overwhelm us, there are still lots of counter activities that we can initiate in order to work efficiently on a solution, an evaluation, and a prevention of such. One of the first points we may want to consider is that we, on our own, are not able to offer strategies and solutions to all kinds of problems. Therefore, I suggest that professional mediators start working in teams. Gathering several experts working on one case brings many thoughts together, enables us to reflect in a more profound way, and offers all parties the possibility to create a beneficial level of empathy within the group of involved parties. Believe me, the time of one individual providing a matching solution to all parties certainly came to an end, at least as far as we face current global conflict structures.

On the other side, we can work on the preventive side of conflict. One of such steps is the previously mentioned social instruction of our younger generations. Further, it is highly important to raise the awareness of the individual towards to future impact of current actions. Such a properly developed awareness may make the person understand its responsibility towards oneself and towards the community. We can’t accept any longer that people blindly create, initiate, or participate in conflict, and afterwards easily ask for external help. Conflict awareness is the first step towards an effective prevention and escalation of dispute. This awareness is available to anybody and turns each individual into a private and / or professional peace messenger.

Too much time is spent by asking and waiting for international negotiating third parties, too many lives are kept for too long in danger, and too much money is spent on educational programs that do not face and do not deal properly with the treasure of mankind – its diversity. It took me ten years to finalize the WMO Online Training in Mediation and Conflict Management, and to actually meet this need. The fact that WMO is able to welcome students from all corners of the globe, being enrolled in the WMO Online Training and giving positive feedback, confirms that our concept works out.

So, what makes the WMO Training different from others? It is not a standardized content that imposes a western style of thinking and professional working on other cultures or on another worldview. It grants space for cultural individuality and enables the student to implement all her / his cultural branding to her / his field of professional work as a mediator. The result of such metamorphose is a unique mediator, full of concepts and competences that are irreplaceable – a true treasure for mankind and for us, being professional peers. I truly wish that my thoughts reach key persons who are able to promote the WMO concept and understanding in an even broader way and who support thereby the further healing process of society.

Summing it up:

True, it is not an easy task to initiate such a healing process. We are facing an overwhelming complexity of conflict structures, and a wide range of facts that motivate people to engage in both, conflict and peace work. Considering all this variables, you may understand that the least thing we need are standards in Mediation that focus on educational concept or on professional practice. Professional freedom, flexibility, and the development of personal skills are necessary. Often, conflict scenarios are analyzed and calculated by professional risk managers who evaluate future and long-term benefits and casualties of conflicts. Closing the circle and getting back to our initial point, you may realize that our skills are highly needed and that we are naturally equipped by a very powerful tool – our diversity. I beg you to discover this individual diversity for your own, and to make these words becoming flesh. I kindly invite you to become a WMO Fellow and to report on your experience by contributing articles to our WMO Conflict Insight Database.

I wish to close this reflection with the words of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Thank you for your attention.

Daniel Erdmann, February 24, 2016


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