The process of mediation

Tobias Volz posted 6 months ago, 1 Responses
A mediator is generally neutral. However, a biased mediator may be an option to push parties in a specific direction. Even though one of the conditions of mediation is usually its voluntary character, many mediation cases, such as international conflicts, are not voluntary at all. The outcome of mediation is unpredictable; however, it mostly aims to end with an agreement between the parties. The responsibility to resolve the dispute lies solely at the conflict parties. 
Remodeling a conflict can be seen as the ‘real’ goal of mediation. Focus is revealing the real conflict reasons through a clear presentation of perspectives. The right questions asked by the mediator helps to identify personal needs that contribute to the dispute. The mediator needs to establish mutual trust, understand the nature of conflicts, and the potential of escalation. 
Rather than sticking to a pre-structured method, mediation can be, in many cases, more effective when the steps are tailored to the uniqueness of the conflict. 

An easy-to-understand model of a mediation process can be summarized as follows: 

Party A has an opinion
Party B has an opinion
Party A shares corresponding viewpoints
Party B shares the corresponding viewpoint

Having worked with parents in dispute, mediation sessions were often not voluntary, but a result of a court order. In many cases, even though it took some time to make the parents understand the benefits of mediation, mediation improved the relationship between the parents and often led to agreements concerning their children. However, the outcome was often unpredictable and influenced by unexpected events. As a mediator, I tried to remodel the conflict in many cases by focusing it on their shared interests, the children. Highlighting the importance of needed cooperation for the sake of the children, made many parents leave their initial position and demands while finding common ground. I also realized the importance of trust between all parties. Trust often relied on the reliability of agreements and means of communication. As a part of this, conflicts from the past needed to be forgiven for being able to move on. In the beginning, I often stuck to pre-structured concepts. However, with more experience and confidentiality, I more often tried more tailored steps and realized the benefits of flexible mediation, leaving more space for the actual needs of the parties. 

Logical procedures can be different; however, steps for mediation of international disputes can be summarized as follows: 
-	Preparation: Understand the conflict, background, and history
-	Assess mediator readiness: Clarify role, agree to the role, get authority and resources, know when not to mediate
-	Assess conflict ripeness: Assess, and enhance conflict ripeness, take former mediation attempts under consideration
-	Conduct Track I mediation: Utilize pre-negotiations, manage media, ensure logistics, work with matching stakeholders
-	Conduct Track II mediation: Assess possible benefit of Track II mediation, manage communication and information sharing
-	Develop peace agreement: Draft principles and agreement, focus on and support implementation, use clear language

Dear Tobias,

I think your work with parents was very relevant. Normally, they have more points than they agree on and it seems weird that one point may cause such trouble at the end. But, more often than not, there are minor conflicts hidden that empower the point in the discussion and make it more complex. Here, we see the multi-layer nature of the conflict.

BR, Daniel