Possibly my favourite soundbite of this morning’s sessions was this comment from the floor when delegates were discussing standards and good practice. Of all the discussion around how prescriptive or flexible mediation training could or should be, this phrase seems to neatly summarise one of the big dilemmas facing anyone attempting to develop an international standard of training provision.
A concern that seems to be shared by a number of delegates is how mixed standards can affect things like the quality of training provision and how confident people are in what mediation has to offer. One delegate commented that having strong, recognised standards for mediator training was important because in jurisdictions where ADR is less established, poorly trained mediators could create a negative impression of mediation and deter people from using ADR in subsequent disputes. Another delegate raised the issue of similar but separate processes to mediation: where a local mediation-type process might have a reputation for ‘always doing this’ or ‘never getting to the bottom of that’, having a set standard for how mediators approach situations could be a good way of proving mediation’s identity and value.
However, this then brings into question the issue of “too much” rule-setting: how much is too much? Who should set the rules for mediator standards? Could and should governments have a role in standard setting? Are the same processes applicable in both common and civil law jurisdictions? How can we help mediators to achieve the best, internationally recognised training while also helping them to develop their own styles and approaches?
Mediation relies upon, and can indeed be enhanced by, the creativity and flexibility of the mediator and the parties in a mediation. Much of the day’s discussions have also highlighted how beneficial it would be to have broadly accepted standards and expectations for how mediators are trained. How can we reconcile these two needs?