This year I have been privileged to attend three wonderful international commercial mediation competitions, in which students from around the world come together with mediators and other professionals to practice negotiation in mediation and mediation itself, and to talk about best mediation practice. These are the International Chamber of Commerce International Commercial Mediation Competition in Paris, Lex Infinitum in Goa, and the Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition in Vienna. I have taken on different roles at these events, from coaching a team, to mediating with students, to judging students’ performances and giving feedback.
Each time I have left feeling exhilarated. Each time my work as a university teacher, mediator and trainer has been given a wonderful boost. These events are amazing meetings of people and minds, and their popularity is growing. More events of the kind are being established around the world. This is as good a place as any to thank all the organisers, sponsors and volunteers who do so much to make them happen.
There is more to this than just the fun of spending a few days with like-minded people from around the world – itself a fine thing to do. The fellowship and sharing that these events facilitate is special, and I am sure that mediation is a profession which is made for exactly this kind of sharing. Mediators, so my experience, are often wonderful people. But what we are doing at these meetings is also engaging in a global conversation and a global education experience that has a number of higher levels – aims both covert and overt that I would like to reflect on here. There are links here to the Global Pound Conference Series too.
Spreading the word
Firstly, events like these are about promoting mediation. If students of law are exposed to mediation and see its benefits then the hope is that they will consider mediation when it comes to their professional practice as litigators and counsel, and that they will be able to suggest it to clients. These events are attended primarily by students of law, but we need to reach out and spread the message of mediation to many other young professionals too.
I teach mediation at a small German university, to students of business and to students of commercial law, and at the end of each course I always ask my students what their biggest take-away is. They are unlikely to become professional mediators, and they know this, but they always acknowledge considerable improvement in their communication skills in general and conflict skills in particular. Good stuff, but what I really want them to say is that they will be the people in companies and organisations who can suggest using mediation to resolve disputes. We need to teach mediation to the future decision-makers – as the GPC Series noted repeatedly, including at the closing conference in London (see the report by Nicky Doble) and the Berlin conference that I attended in March this year.
Secondly, events like these are about global citizenship. One of the areas the United Nations is addressing in its Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals is education, with a UNESCO programme on Global Citizenship Education – for learners of all ages. If we learn to see ourselves as citizens of the world with a responsibility for the world, in addition to nationals of one or several countries, then we will work on cooperative projects for sustainability. For me, events like CDRC, the ICC Mediation Competition and Lex Infinitum epitomise what is best about a global conversation, particularly as they practise international collaboration and amicable dispute resolution – which the world needs so much on so many levels, while they also show where global conversations can and should over time reflect on and fill in some of their own gaps (see below).
At these events, participants from around the globe aged between around 20 and around 70 work together collaboratively on mediation best practice, and in the course of this work they get to know each other, learn about each others’ cultures, and engage on further collaborative projects. The amount of volunteering that takes place at these events is truly remarkable too – people come to them because they are self-motivated, in whatever capacity they attend, and many of them offer their time and work for no financial return and pay their own costs. The intangible returns are much greater.
A global conversation
The Global Pound Conference Series has also been about promoting mediation and education on mediation, and it is also a global conversation, which is still ongoing. Could it be that the mediation communities around the world, which become a global community at these events, are a wonderful example of global citizenship in practice? I think the answer is probably yes.
I will finish with a couple of questions, focused on the mediation competition format, but probably – mutatis mutandis – having some relevance for the Global Pound concept too. At the two big European mediation competitions (ICC and CDRC), over the years student teams from African countries have been greatly under-represented. On the level of the participating professionals and experts, there is still a disproportionate majority of ‘Western’ expertise – people from Western Europe and the USA (and Australasia). True, this is a no-brainer, but no-brainers are often overlooked. These events mirror the status of our global world – in which access to education and access to many other ‘goods’ is not evenly distributed. I am sure that the organisers of mediation competitions would dearly like to have even more diverse and representative participation – could there be some scholarship arrangement with the assistance of sponsors?
Finally, I ask myself if spreading the word of mediation by the judging of student performances using a largely ‘Western’ mediation model and by a largely ‘Western’ team of jury members is not an inadvertent dissemination of a particular normative approach that might not fit everyone or everywhere. That would be a subject of another blog, and I leave with the reassurance that people around the world are wise enough to make their own decisions on where they are going and how, and that acceptance of difference is one key pillar in global citizenship education.
Written by Greg Bond.
Greg Bond teaches negotiation and mediation to master’s students of management and commercial law at Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau, Germany. He is a Bundesverband Mediation certified mediator and a workplace mediator, moderator and mediation trainer, with his own company, bond and bond mediation. He is a member of the ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition Rules Working Group and chairs the CDRC Case Working Group.