Association for Conflict Resolution's Blog

Mediation as a Profession: Diverse Perspectives from Europe, the UK, and the U.S.

Posted in Uncategorized by Association for Conflict Resolution on May 27, 2010

This thoughtful panel-mediated discussion raised many questions (and perhaps a few answers) about the evolution of the profession and how to create, maintain, replicate, and publicize the kinds of quality assurance practices and standards that inspire confidence in mediation—and in turn, help these skills to be applied as widely as possible in any given country.

It was clear from this frank discussion that mediators around the world hold different views on the depth, breadth, and continuity that’s appropriate for men and women to become qualified mediators. And no wonder: Within each country, the laws promoting or requiring mediation in certain types of cases vary widely; and there are significant cultural, social, political, and economic considerations that drive and define the profession.

A big point of interest: One of the main presenters represents the International Mediation Institute (IMI), which offers an international certification program.  As part of the program, IMI qualifies other countries’ or states’ assessment programs as qualified assessment programs (QAPs). If you meet those standards, the QAP can certify mediators and count as IMI mediator certification.

We need programs in the states to become QAPs—just as France has done.

Says the Director of IMI: “It’s just amazing how many people are passionate about mediation and want to be involved in bringing this to a state of excellence.

“Assessment is the key.

“So, qualify them by the assessment program to become IMI-certified. You need to see the person in action and give them feedback. That will protect the profession.”

The top-line issues that emerged from this session included:

  • What does it mean to certify mediators—and is certification even necessary?
  • Are there recognizable common standards that give the profession a clear and trustworthy profile to potential clients and others who might refer business to mediators?
  • How do you balance the need to structure mediation as a recognizable and accepted profession without alienating mediators who fear the flexibility they prize may be sacrificed to rigid regulations or training requirements?
  • How should mediators be assessed? And what about the assessors themselves?
  • And do we risk setting the bar so high for mediators to qualify as mediators, that mediation-type skills aren’t spread or used as widely as they might be in many different situations?

The following summary—reflecting individual contributors from different countries—captures some of the flavor of the discussion. Note that while many important and valid issues were raised, this session was not intended to provide hard-and-fast answers to every question raised.

ROMANIA:
The Romanian government has embraced mediation, codified in law, as a viable tool for the courts,  domestic violence cases, business disputes, and in other spheres. At least 80 hours of training are required to certify as a mediator.

This 80-hour certification is the first step in a long-term commitment. “There’s resistance from other professions, like lawyers and psychologists. Not to mention public officials perceiving themselves as mediators in certain situations. We also impose at least 40 hours for year in additional training. This is how we pursue the quality of mediation in our system. Even so, there is strong professional resistance from other professions.”

ENGLAND:

“What comes after certification? What’s the ongoing requirement? What is it and what should it be?

“We require mediators to go through annual program to maintain certification. It’s for everyone’s benefit, because it gives them recognition that within the last year they have been qualified or requalified. But there’s no way we could afford to put many people through a rigorous mediation certification program because we don’t have the resources.”

NETHERLANDS:

“What’s the role of those who refer mediators as providers?

“In the Netherlands, there’s a nice certification scheme. On the other hand, to get there, it’s made mediation less flexible—there’s less access to mediation. There is tension between making mediation certification too rigid, too regulated. That’s contradictory to what mediators do, which is to be flexible. So what I’ve seen is, mediators saying, I have to do too much paperwork for too little in return.”

SCOTLAND:

“We are conflict resolvers. That’s what we’re here for. There must be many levels of conflict resolution that don’t require a high powered qualified mediator. They require mediation skills and techniques, and the spreading of them. My concern is, to have a mediation profession, others say they’re not qualified to do this. It’s not always necessary to have members of the mediation profession. By spreading basic mediation skills, we spread the use of mediation in more situations.”

Representatives from TURKEY and POLAND also noted that their mediation efforts are not as far along as many of the other nations present. For instance, in Turkey, “mediation is not yet a profession. But the government is working on this. Now it’s under discussion as to who will do this job. Some say it will be lawyers only. Others say others can do it.”

In Poland, the federation of NGOs is in the process of creating a mediation academy.

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