Archive for April, 2009

Building Collapse in NYC

April 30, 2009

One more mobile post- What turned into a walk for coffee, became another day in crisis communications (in the form of multi-agency information gathering, decimating, and reporting) for me. See pictures below, and the on-going story [here]

Pic 1 (police rescue dog searching to see if there were victims, luckily that was not the case)
Pic 2 (opposite street side view, it was a 5 story building, with a vacant lot next to it on one side, an abandoned building on the other)

Pic 3

Note: edited later to consolidate image links

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


April 30, 2009

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


April 30, 2009

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


April 30, 2009

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


April 30, 2009

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Are You An Effective Mediator?

April 30, 2009

Are You An Effective Mediator?

I am sure each of my readers will be saying, “Yes Jeff, of course I am.” And then of course if you know me and my blog, there is much more to the question.

The easiest and quickest way to decide if you are an effective mediator is to point to the success rate of cases you handle. You can say to possible future clients, “I have a 92% settlement rate with cases I mediate.” You can also use such percentages on first dates but I cannot promise you it will get a second date.

So do you decide your effectiveness on your success rate? Is that how your parties decide? I believe measuring your effectiveness via successful settlement is limiting yourself. Yes, it is important but there is much more that goes into being an effective mediator.

Think about it, if all you cared about was racking up your settlement percentage, how genuine will you come across when you are supposed to be using empathy or acknowledging feelings? Yes, don’t ever forget there are feelings involved, even if the case is allegedly only about money!

So what other terms can be used to assess your mediation? I recently read in Mediation: Skills and Techniques, the following terms can be used in measuring your effectiveness:

Process is an integral part of mediation. Are the parties happy with the format? Did they feel they were able to speak and be understood? Did they think it was fair? Did they have equal time compared to the other party(s)? Ensuring the parties are not only satisfied but also happy with the process should not be overlooked as the process itself is many times just as important to the participants as the actual issue that brought them to the mediation. Being part of the process and decision making not only increases the effectiveness of the mediation but it also has an impact on the durability of the settlement.

Efficiency refers to the order and structure of the mediation. Did you help both parties prepare? Did the mediation take a reasonable amount of time? Was it too brief or drag on and on?

Empowerment is another method used to measure a mediator’s effectiveness. It is important to make sure that all parties involved are on an equal playing field. How do you do that? The following can be helpful:

– Equal speaking time
– Limited interruptions
– Both parties understanding it is their process, not yours or anyone else’s
– They are the ones deciding the outcome, the power rests in their hands
– Equipping them with skills to not only handling the current issue but future ones too

means how the result of the mediation will hold over time. A photo-worthy handshake is worthless unless the actual agreement is something the parties can both stick with. Did both parties contribute to the decision making process Future casting and reality testing can help you as the mediator to get the parties to consider this.

Relationship. Sometimes the parties get so worked into their positions (which we have to help them move towards interests, right?) and the issues they forget about the relationship they have with the other party. It could be a client, neighbor, employee, friend or co-worker. Losing sight of the relationship raises the potential to damage, possibly permanently, whatever connection they have with the other party. This brings up the unfortunate win-the-battle but lose-the-war scenario. The mediator’s job in the context of relationship is to help the parties have a better understanding of each other and assist them to evaluate each option, including their BATNA and WATNA, with its influence on their relationship.

Mediation & ADR News

April 28, 2009

Fiji Under Pressure to Allow International Mediators
“What we are hoping is that the UN will continue to engage in the dialogue and mediation process to do with Fiji in partnership with the Commonwealth and obviously working through the Pacific Forum.”
Read more [here]

Police Tell Warring Residents to Seek Mediation
POLICE have urged warring Coomera Waters residents to seek mediation after the ongoing dispute about who should have access to a footpath took another dramatic turn…
Police Acting Inspector Andrew Dupere said rather than fight, residents should consider mediation.
Insp Dupere said police would not become involved but if called would help keep the peace.
“It’s a civil matter. We’re there to keep the peace and make sure no violence happens between the different parties or it doesn’t escalate into violence,” he said.

Read more [here]

Victims Prefer Mediation Over Legal Action
The latest research conducted in KwaZulu- Natal, the province with the highest incidence of domestic violence, shows that most victims prefer mediation to taking their abusers to court.
The victims participated in victim-centred restorative justice mediation voluntarily.

Full article [here]

Flexibility, partnerships, knowledge key to mediating conflicts – UN official
To boost its ability to prevent and limit bloodshed, the United Nations must have flexible funding, regional partnerships and accessible information for mediation, the Organization’s political chief said today.
“Mediation is a Charter activity of the United Nations and must be carried out with the highest degree of professionalism, transparency and preparation to promote peace and security,” …

Full article [here]

The Brave New World of Disputes

April 27, 2009

A recent article written in the National Law Journal by Ian Meredith, Laura Atherton and Marcus M. Birch gives us a glance at potential massive disputes that will arise in the next two decades. The top three areas of possible conflict stem from the analysis of the National Intelligence Council’s 2008 report, “2025 Global Trends: A Transformed World. They are:

  1. Competition for carbon-based sources of energy. The NIC predicts that scarcity of carbon-based sources of energy and a desire for secure access to energy supplies will bring countries into conflict.
  2. Water. Activities by countries close to a water source that reduce the water available to downstream countries through diversion, retention and pollution of water are increasing worldwide, and with them the number of disputes.
  3. Natural Resources of the seabed. there are potentially 430 maritime boundaries among 67 coastal countries, fewer than half are agreed upon and only a handful of those involve the outer continental shelf, disputes are inevitable.

As with today’s global economy situation, financial disputes also are listed a potential provider to international conflict. A worthy note is financial disputes are not just between international corporations, but also between nations. The recent Naftohaz Ukrainy and Gazprom dispute, both state run by the Ukraine and Russia respectively, serves as an example.

So how does ADR fit in on the international stage? Well, The EU Directive on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Matters, adopted in 2008, not only encourages mediation but also the enforcement of agreements reached there as well.

The article adds that the international neutral community will face two challenges:

  1. The need for greater sophistication in the mechanisms deployed to stimulate settlement;
  2. The need for greater cultural sensitivity as mediation is used to address disputes between parties from different cultural traditions.

The issue of cultural sensitivity seems to be ‘popping’ up often. When attending the recent American Bar Association section on Dispute Resolution’s Spring Conference in New York City, there were numerous sessions dedicated to the issue of mediating internationally and the issue of cultural differences.

Read the entire article [here].

New Multimedia Resource for Peacemakers

April 24, 2009

Craig Zelizer over at International Peace & Conflict (btw, a must visit site at least once a week) blogged the following:

This is an initiative that several colleagues and I have been working on over the past year. Please distribute this to your networks.

– Find documentaries, films, shows, podcasts, songs, video games, and other multimedia about peace and conflict management.

– Use them in your work as educators, trainers, practitioners, policy makers, or students.

– Explore a wide range of topics, such as conflict prevention, nonviolence, post

-conflict reconstruction, refugees, child soldiers, rule of law, religion, climate change, terrorism, and much more.

– Search for multimedia by region, country, media type, and issue area.

If you have any questions, feedback, or comments please do not hesitate to contact us at: avarghese1(at) We look forward to your feedback!

Negotiating Justice: A guide for Mediators

April 22, 2009

Guide for Global Mediators

This gem of a guide/report is written by Priscilla Hayner, Director of the ICTJ Program on Peace and Justice and part of the HD Centre’s “Negotiating Justice: Strategies for tackling isues in peace processes”.

This report will serve the global mediator well. A major topic covered includes the very important, and ever increasing issue of when dealing with international peace talks, how to handle amesty dilemmas. The issue is brought up to show that it is not as simple being ‘peace versus justice’ but more complex. Also, framing it in such a way limits options (remember- expanding the pie).

Chapter one deals with framing the questions of justice and how it can be focused on two dinstinct goals. First being, “justice mesaures might seek accountabilty for abuses of the past, which may be done through both judicial and non-judicial means. Second, a justice policy may strengthen instituations or laws to prevent abuses in the future. Additionally, conflict can be approached by asking the following four questions:

  1. What has been the nature of the abuses in the conflict
  2. What demands for accountability may arise, and from whom?
  3. Who is well placed to offer policy options?
  4. What are the options for justice? And what should be done inside the peace negotiations to address these?

Chapter two goes onto discuss recent experiences of peace agreements and how the issue of justice is included. In regards to implementation, it is noted the more the steps are explicit and a timeline is included, the greater the chance of the measures being carried out. A list of criteria is given to consider when designing peace agreements.

The report then goes into the detailed process of who to include in the peace process and the various levels of involvement each party can play. This chapter, and the report as a whole, has a substantial impact on those in the global mediation field who read this because not only does it give structural tips on how to handle the broad spectrum on agreements, but it also includes specific, real examples of them being used in various settings around the globe.

The next two chapters deal with the issue of amnesty and and the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Although the mediator is a neutral party to the talks, almost always the issue of amnesty will be raised, so it is imeperative to know the international laws regarding it, and recent situations involving this sensitive topic. The ICC can play a pivotal role in the direction of a peace agreement. An appropriate example is the recent arrest warrant it issued to Sudanese President Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes.

For only 24 pages, this report has a wealth of imformation. It conlcudes with a section on emerging lessons and best practices making this report a good addition to the stack of reference books for any global mediator.

Read the report [here]