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Interview with Hrach Gregorian, Institute of World Affairs

Gregorian is President of the Washington D.C.–based research organization, the Institute of World Affairs (IWA). He is member of the Graduate Faculty, School of Peace and Conflict Management, Royal Roads University; Adjunct Professor and Research Fellow, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University; Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria; and Senior Fellow, Canadian Defense & Foreign Affairs Institute. For over three decades Gregorian has been active in deep cultural and risk analysis in fragile states, with field experience in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, Central and East Asia.

He served as one of the founding directors of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and developed the Institute’s first professional training program in conflict analysis and negotiation. Gregorian is also one of the co-founders of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the largest US-based membership organization of institutions and professionals in the field of peace and conflict management.

Gregorian has been awarded research and applied project grants by foundations and government agencies in the North America and Europe. He is recipient of American University’s Capital Area Peacemaker Award and a Boston University Distinguished Alumni Award. He sits on various boards.

Gregorian earned his M.A and Ph.D. degrees at Brandeis University and his B.A. at Boston University. He and his wife of 39 years, Judith Lynn (Kramer), reside in Vienna, Virginia and are the parents of three grown children.

1. What requirements do you think a good mediator should have? 

Good listening skills, empathy, process skills, ability to “close the deal” (including clarifying the exact wording of the agreement).

2. What training do you consider most adequate to become a good mediator? 

Workshop on process issues (including familiarity with relevant literature); shadowing (mentoring by) experienced mediator; practice, practice, practice.

3. In your opinion, what legislative measures would be necessary to effectively promote mediation in general and business mediation in particular? 

Not sure legislative measures are necessary r appropriate, particularly with respect to private sector mediation.

4. What are the benefits of resolving a dispute through mediation rather than through the courts or arbitration? 

Parties maintain greater control of the process. There is usually greater process and outcome satisfaction, so agreements are more likely to stick.

5. What is the most complicated aspect of mediation? 

Building trust between the parties, reframing issues to move away from positional bargaining to interest-based discussions.

6. What conditions should a citizen or enterprise take into account in order to select a good mediator? 

Experience, reputation (in the field and among clients), track record

7. Do you think that mediation is an institution already implanted in our country? Or do you think that it has not been fully accepted by the citizens? 

Depends on the country. If you mean Spain, based on the little I know it appears there is more legitimizing work yet to be done.

8. In your opinion, what is the future of mediation in Europe as an extrajudicial method of dispute resolution? 

I don’t know enough about the overall picture in Europe to provide a useful response. However, given the political crises in the north and the economic crises in the south (to make a simple distinction), I think effective mediation practice should be a high priority.

9. What advice would you give to those who think of mediation as a future profession?

Get top-notch training at reputable institutions, capitalize on any opportunity to gain exposure and experience, take whatever position becomes available, practice and build a reputation, move up or on.

10. What is your opinion about online mediation? For which conflicts would online mediation be most useful?

I don’t know nearly enough about this to offer even a qualified response.

11. What is the work of an international mediator?

Facilitating a resolution of wicked problems in a manner that is acceptable to the parties involved.

12. What does a family mediator do?

I am told the family mediator helps to advance communication and understanding, and focuses family members on their personal and common interests. The family mediator works with parties to explore options, make decisions and together reach agreements.

13. What is criminal mediation? And civil and commercial mediation? 

Definitions abound. I refer you to the European Justice portal for definitions, https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_mediation_in_member_states-64-pt-en.do?member=1

14. What do you think is the key factor so mediation can become a regular extrajudicial method of conflict resolution in the international and business fields?

Promotion, effective application, positive results. Would-be clients usually ask, how and why is this better than formal adjudication (cost as well as outcome is a big issue here), who have you worked with, and what is your track record?

15. Do you think mediation could be a solution to the widespread workload problem of the justice system in our country? 

Maybe. Fact is, one of the key reasons for the introduction of ADR in North America was an enormous backlog in court cases. This is particularly true in the criminal justice system.

Please, describe the work of the organization to which you belong in the field of mediation.  

The Institute of World Affairs (IWA), www.iwa.org, engages in highly interactive programs designed to assist clients to develop the knowledge, empathy, strategies and skills necessary to more effectively undertake conflict analysis and to facilitate negotiation and mediation. IWA programs enhance the participants’ ability to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of a conflict episode; knowledge of the spectrum of possible responses and intervention strategies that can be employed; and skills as negotiators and mediators.

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