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  • Ed

Trust and independence - key to mediation success

Independence from all parties, perceived or real, is a key element for the successful mediator, there are lots of tools like a Swiss Army Knife but let's have a look at neutrality and trust today.

Neutrality is why I don’t mediate for clients of firms I work for because there is an obvious chance of bias, and if one party feels there is an unbalance in the neutrality of the mediator the mediation will fail.

And whilst we are on Swiss Army Knives let's take a look at a case in point the Swiss mediation attempts in Cameroon.

Arrangements for the mediation talks were just being finalised when the secessionist group pulled out citing the relationship between Switzerland and the Cameroon government led by President Paul Biya.

Doubts about the independence of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue had been raised after Biya’s personal visit to Geneva earlier in July.

The leader of the Ambazonia Governing Council (AGC), Lucas Ayaba Cho representing the secessionists said the Swiss representative “must clearly tell us if they are just a facilitator or a mediator. We will agree to work with Switzerland if it agrees to discuss with the mediator who will speak on behalf of Ambazonia, while it represents Cameroon,”

Once a party no longer believes in the neutrality of the mediator they immediately feel that the mediator is acting for one side rather than working with both parties and, as in this case, look to have their own representative, which in a civil claim would take the whole process out of mediation and back to the combative realms of litigation.

The Centre released a statement confirming it saw its role as mediator not arbitrator or representative and backed their independent stance up by adding “Our work has consisted in making contact with the multitude of groups that abound in the diaspora, in order to have a fairly representative range of the Ambazonian movement. We invited about ten of them and had two meetings with them. We also made an offer to the Cameroonian authorities through their ambassador, which was endorsed by the President of the Republic.”

Objecting to the late move by the secessionists the Ministry of Territorial Administration said “It is purely bad faith, they were all unanimous when they called for dialogue. They say they are fighting for their people, but in reality they do not care about them at all or they would not make that kind of decision when we are on the way out of the crisis. Mediation is the only way to resolve the conflict and end the violence.”

The Swiss attempts retain the backing of the UN although there has been some criticism that not enough of the parties are involved in the talks (even when they do eventually go ahead).

The loss of faith in the mediator’s neutrality is catastrophic to most talks and why we at Northwest Mediation are open with how we work and precise in what involvement or information we have from any party before we begin the process as a perceived influence can add oil to the flames of a dispute.

Another key element for mediation is ensuring the rules you set are enforced, don’t take phone calls, do concentrate and don’t be surfing the web. If you want an example of how not to behave have a look at Katie Price’s behaviour, which is rather excellently put down by the team at West Sussex Mediation Service.

The gentle telling off of Ms Price’s behaviour is certainly not “blasted” as the headline would have you believe, it is wholly appropriate, direct and the common sort of comment we mediators have to make during mediations.

Mediation talks should normally be conducted in private but clearly that was waived in this case presumably as every other aspect of her life is recorded even the private arrangements for Ms Price’s children with husband Kieran Hayler fall to be just another part of observed behaviour.

You may remember way back last year we reported on Moray Council’s decision to begin mediation over a dispute arising form the shooting rights and privileges at Findhorn Bay.

Sadly the talks did not manage to reach a resolution, with one side blaming the mediator Alex Stoddart from Scottish Association for Country Sports rather unfairly calling the mediator “ineffectual” for failing to build up trust, which may have been a problem but seems unlikely given the mediation team involved, Forres council member George Alexander had a rather more pragmatic comment accepting that “clearly some people had no intention of coming to an agreement”.

Whilst not every mediation can immediately succeed what happens in many cases where an immediate resolution is not reached is that the parties reconsider their relative positions and post-mediation reach an agreement because of the talks they held.

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, often it is on longer reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

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 issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, 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 wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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