Can Mediation Do Harm? And, Other Stories
During this week’s online sessions in our Rotary Peace Center course (September 6th -12th 2021), our professor Roxana Cristescu introduced us the principles of mediation ethics, such as impartiality, voluntariness, confidentiality, self-determination, honesty, informed consent and the principle of “Do No Harm”.
Our professor gave us a task to choose the three most important principles for us, personally. This task made me realize how difficult it was for me, as a professional mediator, to choose some and leave other principles. Each one of these principles plays a key role in the process and protects both the mediator and the parties from choices that might harm those who are involved, the mediator or/and the parties, on different levels.
With these thoughts in my mind, on the same day, I came across the work of an artist called Miss Buggs. Her Specimen Series (2021) was displayed during this same week in an art exhibition in Saatchi Gallery in London, England. It contained 21 unique PU resin medical lollipops placed inside of 9 cabinets. What intrigued me was that the lollies appeared harmless and colorful, even delicious from afar. But, if you looked closely, you’d realize their harmful content: syringes, blades and pills. Something that appeared so harmless, could actually do you harm, if you were not careful.
We usually think of mediation as a process for peaceful conflict settlement. A process that has a positive impact on the parties involved. It gives them the freedom to decide for their case by themselves, it encourages and empowers them to do so, away from Courts, with minimum psychological stress and economic burden. But is it possible that mediation can do harm? In order to answer whether and when mediation can do harm, we have first to understand what the principle of “Do No Harm” means in mediation.
The principle of “Do No Harm” in mediation is borrowed from the Greek Hippocratic Oath doctors agree on before they are appointed in order to offer their services. Adapted to mediation, it requires mediators to conduct the process in a way that will not cause harm to the people involved or “add fuel to the fire” and worsen the dispute. People who choose to come to mediation are, sometimes, in a sensitive and vulnerable psychological state. They may feel insecure, worried, stressed, reserved and anxious as they engage in mediation in order to solve a serious and conflicting matter. A dispute, no matter how peacefully resolved is never taken lightly. A mediator has to be vigilant for signs and always try to empower the parties, enlighten them about the process and instill them with trust and security about their authority, impartiality and professional competence when handling their dispute.
Furthermore, harm may be caused by a mediator’s inapt handling of the conflict, resulting in the creation of undue antagonism between the parties involved. For example, a mediator may allow a party to overpower the other in a discussion, or realize their inability to handle a participant’s anger or breakdown in a divorce family dispute.
Mediation is definitely a process that offers participants a way to resolve their conflicts amicably and peacefully. However, it is the mediator’s job to know, develop and utilize the skills required, including their own personal and professional strengths, weaknesses, limits and biases, in order to help the conflict parties and to “do no harm”.
Theodora Syriou – Greece
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 31Read More
Innovative Development Program Design
Days after finishing our sessions on Innovative Development Program Design in the Rotary Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University, the words of Professor Kai Brand Jacobsen came to mind over and over again.
I was in Chocó, the jungle of the Colombian Pacific region. A territory historically marked by violence between guerrillas, drug trafficking, and illegal mining, but with a very high potential for social change. The area has one of the most biodiverse territories in the world, and its talented and friendly people are living by abandoning that history marked by violence to develop tourism and culture in their territory.
Any intervention or social program that we want to generate peacebuilding and a high social impact in communities must be carefully planned. It is necessary to know the history of the community, their interests, what they face in their day and day, and respect their culture and traditions so that they can take ownership of the program and the changes can be sustainable over time.
In the sessions we had with Professor Jacobsen during our program, we talked about how to carry out project planning, the logical framework, and formulate the theory of change in our social interventions for peacebuilding. And although many of these processes or tools are commonly used in our organizations, it was fascinating and enriching to study them from another perspective.
In this program, we discuss how the tools of design, implementation monitoring, evaluation, and learning in a project should be used not only to guarantee the efficiency of the activities that we are going to carry out in the territory but it is also essential to use them to promote a process of integration of the community, they should be the ones who come up with their solutions and who manage them. Only in this way can we strengthen the social fabric that, in the long run, will be what guarantees sustainable peace.
Before my experience with Professor Jacobsen and my fellow Rotary Peace Fellows, all these tools were a desk job for me; they rarely accompanied me to the territory, to day-to-day work in the community. Today I can see the integration between these processes and the value they have for us as social organizations, for our projects, and, most importantly, for our beneficiaries.
Maria Gabriela Arenas – Venezuela – Colombia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 31Read More