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  • Ed

Nothing is constant…except change

You may not think that as a factor affecting mediation climate change has much of a place but the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue lists the ways in which climate change interplays with mediation and the way that mediation is changing and will continue to change. This is not so much as to how the mediation is conducted but where its use will develop.

In this article David Harland argues that mediators face more challenges as the world (and resources) shrink around us. Be it the effect of social media in the speed of reporting, the likely locations of conflict due to the expanding deserts and rising sea levels competing with the international interests of powerful corporations and countries those challenges cannot be ignored.

As resources become more scarce (and I think particularly here of the likely effect of a no deal Brexit) mediators must be prepared to step in and assist, arrest the development of problems and find solutions for all involved.

David goes on to suggest practical pragmatic steps to take to see where the problems may emerge and ensure that when called upon to assist they get the hep from experts who can identify the underlying environmental driving forces so that the mediator can appreciate the background of all parties and what has driven any potential conflict.

Having reached an agreement David recommends that agreements allow flexibility in anticipation of changing environments, agreements drafted by us at Northwest Mediation always contain a relatively simple clause that the terms can be altered by agreement of the parties. David says in areas where climate change has a known or expected impact agreements should allow for specific as well as unknown changes within their terms and aim to build lasting agreements which encourage co-operation and peace-building.

Changes in the environment are leading to the spread of species to new areas and in New Zealand environmental group Forest and Bird are in mediation with Auckland Council.

New Zealand has some pretty robust laws to keep out invading species (including washing the hiking boots of anyone arriving from abroad at the airport – honestly my boots never looked better) but Forest and Bird are keen to ensure that the steps taken by Auckland Council are strong enough to prevent further incursions into the waters around New Zealand.

Biosecurity manager for Auckland Phil Brown confirmed the council had received an appeal from Forest and Bird against the council’s regional pest management plan and the parties were now entering mediation.

Nick Beveridge of Forest and Bird felt that "A proper programme of marine pest control needs to be included, or marine pests could spiral out of control…They pose a really high risk to the sustainability of our fisheries and marine biodiversity."

Mr Brown in agreeing to the mediation said "The most effective way to prevent [marine pests] from spreading is to make sure that the boat owners are cleaning their hulls. That will help reduce the spreads between regions"

"Marine biosecurity is a new thing. We know how to control possums and rats on lands, but for many of the species that are around the sea, no-one in the world knows how to control them yet…There are seaweeds, sea squirts, crabs - you can't see them from a distance and they are difficult to control. You can't just set out traps. We're having to find ways to do this - the new science."

Which of course reflects what David said in his article above about getting the experts involved in the mediation.

And in reaching a resolution one method employed by mediators is to encourage parties to give the other the benefit of the doubt (as regularly employed by Nicholas Parsons whilst chairing Just a Minute on radio 4).

This is not simply saying “maybe they’re not lying” but guiding the parties to think about why the other side might say something and alternative reasons behind the knee jerk response of “well they would say that” and ask why would they?

It’s a principal behind innocent until proven guilty but in reaching a resolution in mediation it is employed by the mediator by sometimes playing devil’s advocate, by reality checking and by confronting the assumptions of the parties about the behaviour of the other parties.

It’s a powerful tool when one participant is mid-rant about how awful their neighbour/work colleague/family member/employer is to (after allowing the party a reasonable space to vent) to challenge the assumptions which have come out or point out contradictions in their assumptions. It’s not easily done and the technique needs to be employed both at the right time and with the right assertiveness, sometimes a gentle “is that what you really think?” is more affective than “do you honestly believe that?”, as with all clients where you use a carving knife or a scalpel is a matter of what effect you are trying to achieve, but getting parties to give the other the benefit of the doubt allows a whole host of other options to be put on the table.

Once views are removed from the entrenched starting point parties begin to work to a compromise or an understanding which more often than not leads to a resolution with which both sides can live.

And once those techniques are employed you can get a resolution for all parties as seen this week in the South Korean postal union strike talks.

As a result of mediation talks between the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Korean Postal Workers' Union strikes have been averted and a proposal has been agreed that will see 900 new postal workers employed and a day week brought into effect for next year commencing in rural areas. As an additional part of the agreement the postal system will be permitted to plough its profits back into the business rather than handing them to central government.

Hopefully a similarly equitable outcome will arise form the teacher/Salt Lake City mediation which began today, the mediation will be led by a mediator from the Las Vegas office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (it’s not Bollington but Vegas is probably ok as an office location).

Approaching the mediation with an optimistic air James Tobler, president of the Salt Lake Education Association said if the school district authorities could make an offer which is “closer to what we're asking, I think we can figure something out”.

The district similarly acknowledged the vital role of the teachers in a press release which said “We acknowledge the crucial role our educators make every day in the lives of our students, in our district and in our schools. Throughout the salary negotiation process, we’ve done our best to show our teachers that we value their vital role in educating our students. While we are continually restricted in what we can do due to limited funding, we remain hopeful that we will be able to reach a conclusion that is favourable to both Salt Lake Education Association and the Salt Lake City School District"

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever changing world and 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.

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 mediation or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes or civil mediation or inheritance, wills and 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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