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  • Ed

Independence Is Key - Mediation

Being independent is a corner stone of being a good mediator, if you have a vested interest int eh outcome (direct or indirect) it is impossible for the parties to trust you and for you to be effectively mediating.

In the middle east this week Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to begin acting as “mediator” between Iran and the US.

It’s a step believed to be at the behest of self-proclaimed expert mediator, commander of cheese and tweeter in chief Donald Trump. It’s a critical role as both parties have stepped up sanctions and the rhetoric but sending in as a mediator someone described as a "close friend" of president trump is not necessarily mediation, it’s representation.

One of the errors many clients make when you first speak to them is that believing you are their advocate, which would be true if they approached you as their lawyer, but put simply a mediator is not a representative. We have to ask difficult questions of both sides and if one feels that we are on their side that party may well feel more aggrieved when challenged by the mediator while the other party feels a bias against them. Yes, we are friendly and approachable; yes, we will put your views to your opposite number but we are not there to represent your interests in a one sided manner.

Perhaps yet again the president mistakes what mediation is?

At the same time Germany is taking a mediator role with relations between Abu Dhabi and Iran.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said "Today, I have had a long and fruitful discussion with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on a lot of issues, including Iran's regional meddling, the current situation in Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Palestine and other nations. Germany being a member of the United Nations Security Council, we have hope that its mediation among nations in the region to ensure political diplomacy will play an important role to prevent escalating tensions and bring peace."

Maas agreed "The role of Iran in the region, especially its meddling in other nations' political issues, is something we see as being problematic…We are keen on political diplomacy as exchanging threats won't lead us anywhere. All sides have to deter from political escalations to avoid tensions in the region."

That is the true aim of mediation to de-escalate, rationalise and reach an accord, and whilst Germany certainly has a strong trade interest ($13 billion worth at last count) and has many citizens living and working in the UAE it’s Maas role as part of the UN that brings with it the authority needed to help with the ongoing peace process. It’s perhaps unreasonable to expect there to be any government official who is wholly independent in discussions about which ultimately involve avoiding war.

Away from the question of independence mediators in Cook County are helping train commissioners on how to deal with each other and an odd question of confidentiality has arisen (odd because whilst mediations are confidential training provided by mediators does not need to be) .

In an effort to improve the way county commissioners deal with each other the Association of Minnesota Counties and the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation services convened a meeting at which for the commissioners, Administrator Jeff Cadwell, County Attorney Molly Hicken and auditor Braidy Powers attended.

The question raised in the article is whether that training should be public as it applies to the commissioners’ work. It seems an odd concept to one trained in the private sector that it should even be a question as to whether the training you receive be subject to public scrutiny.

Caldwell said “Both Attorney Hicken and myself have a responsibility to maintain public trust and make sure that we follow these rules. Our offices are charged with making sure that we follow the statutory requirements and meet all those conditions.

“So while training and communications and board development doesn't meet the standard of being a meeting, we can't talk about what meetings are we going to have? What meetings are we going to record? What public comment looks like? Anything that's related to the business of the board has to happen at a public meeting.

“So the trainer from the Bureau Mediation Services, Attorney Hicken and myself, will have responsibility to make sure that the agenda of this training session stays on the line of training and doesn't fall into county business,”

Any mediation would be a confidential matter but does the training of the staff to attend the mediation need to be as well? I’m with attorney Hicken on this one “It's in the best interest of the public that it not be, so your elected officials effectively communicate to make the best decisions for the county. A conversation about interpersonal communication, recorded and in front of a crowd, would be difficult, stilted, and ineffective.”

The open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on, to achieve those aims discussions must remain confidential and the mediator must be independent.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public (and some lawyers) will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes or inheritance, wills or probate arguments contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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