On 28 May 2018 the International Academy of Mediators held a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. The conference discussed how we, as mediators, can look outward and work towards a better community and society.
For us in South Africa, where we find ourselves experiencing varying degree of conflict pertaining to racism, land expropriation, dissatisfaction regarding service delivery and protests which result in response thereto, inadequate community safety and lack of access to justice to list but a few issues which are not isolated and all feed into each other. Mediators can play a significant role in contributing to a constructive engagement with conflict. This is not new territory for South Africa as we did engage in this at community level during our transition to democracy. Unfortunately this was neglected and what has resulted is a downward spiral in a very violent and negative engagement with conflict. There are sporadic efforts by faith based groups to mediate and engage on these issues but what could be more constructive is if we could find a way to engage using the same principles. This Declaration of International Mediators might be a good starting point. An extract below illustrates this ethos that can be adapted for local use:
We believe that it is in the interests of our world as a whole and our own communities in particular that difficult issues are discussed with civility and dignity.
We believe that it is very important to find common ground and shared interests whenever possible and to enable and encourage people to work out difficult issues constructively and cooperatively.
We believe that finding common ground and shared interests requires meaningful and serious dialogue which requires significant commitment from all concerned.
We believe that understanding underlying values and addressing fundamental needs is usually necessary to generate long-term sustainable outcomes.
We believe that restoring decision-making and autonomy wherever possible to the people who are most affected in difficult situations lies at the heart of good problem-solving.
We believe that mediators have a unique role to play in helping to promote the principles we have set out above.
We believe that it is a privilege to act as mediators in a wide range of difficult situations in our countries, communities and the world as a whole.
We are committed to offering our services to help those in difficult situations in our countries and communities, and in the world as a whole, to deal with and resolve these for themselves in a constructive and cooperative way.
We are committed to doing all we can to maintain our independence and impartiality in those situations in which we are invited to act as mediators and to build trust in our work as mediators.
We acknowledge and accept that preserving our independence and impartiality in such situations may mean that any outcome reached may not accord with views or wishes we may hold as individuals.
We acknowledge that applying these ideas is a long-term, subtle and complex process which we need to approach with humility and that a range of outcomes is possible in the many different contexts and places in which we work.
We are committed to maintaining and raising professional standards through training, continuing development and sharing of best practice.
We recognise that it is important to exemplify the values that we seek to encourage and, in our work as mediators, we undertake to do our best, and to encourage others to do their best, to:
- show respect and courtesy towards all those who are engaged in difficult conversations, whatever views they hold;
- enable others to express emotion where that may be necessary as part of any difficult conversation;
- acknowledge that there are many differing, deeply held and valid points of view;
- listen carefully to all points of view and seek fully to understand what concerns and motivates those with differing views;
- use language carefully and avoid personal or other remarks which might cause unnecessary offence;
- look for common ground whenever possible.
The Declaration was taken from the following article:
For more information on Mediation in Cape Town, contact any of the panel mediators at: www.aim-mediation.co.za
Chris Fick – June 2018 firstname.lastname@example.org