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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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Interview with Aditya Shivkumar, Mediateitonline

Aditya Shivkumar is an Advocate practising in the High Court of Madras since early 2010. Upon completion of his studies in the United Kingdom, Aditya returned to Chennai to pursue a career in Litigation.. During his stint, he has routinely appeared for clients in Civil Disputes before the High Court. Since late 2012, Aditya has become independent routinely advises clients on a varied range of issues involving Banking and Commercial Laws, Sports Law and Constitutional Law. He specialises in Writ work coupled with Sports Law.

Aditya is an Accredited Mediator having picked up the qualification with Clerksroom-England. In addition to his duties as a litigator, Aditya Shivkumar is a co-founder of Mediateitonline, a company that pioneers in Online Dispute Resolution. Mediateitonline offers state of the art online mediation technology to organisations, court services and mediation providers across the globe.

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

More than the requirements, I would rephrase this question as what is the skill set should a mediator possess ☺. Few skills seem like a no brainer from my limited experience as a mediator and as an ODR provider. Often both overlap, so for the benefit of the reader, a mediator should definitely possess these skills: Excellent communication, quick thinking, a mind that remains balanced when faced with persuasion from both sides, the ability to visualise an agreement and its consequence while dealing with private caucus and most importantly must be a patient listener! These skills are the threshold that distinguishes an effective mediator from a good mediator!!

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

In one line, my take would be the requisite training that is required to become a consensus builder and a brain that is able to keep the parties focussed in the most complex of situations. .

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

One cannot generalise because each country’s legal system is unique in its own way. Government’s world over must create an atmosphere that oozes confidence and has the faith of its citizens. At present, citizens of emerging legal systems feel justice is best served through the courts and those of advanced economies and mature legal systems feel that justice is best served through mediation. Emerging legal systems must take cue from mature countries like the United Kingdom to embrace consensus building to an adversarial mechanism of settling disputes. Measures that make in mandatory for a citizen to first go to mediation before coming to the court could do the mediation industry a world of good. People says mediation is a voluntary process, but should legal systems adopt a policy that would make mediation compulsory prior to approaching the adversarial system, there is a good chance that the foundation is well laid. Moreover, legislative measures that encourage labour intensive business houses, corporate houses, consumer intensive industries like airlines, will go a long way in promoting mediation as a whole.

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

It is low-cost, less adversarial and the parties are still open to an amicable settlement. The problem with the latter (arbitration) is that, it is either I win or I don’t, should I choose to contest an arbitral award, I can still take it to court to get it adjudicated and then process is never ending. Whereas in mediation, the key benefit that I see is it is win-win for the parties present on the table.

  1. What is the most complicated aspect of mediation? 

The most challenging aspect in mediation in general, is the ability of the mediator to let the parties know that disputes can always be resolved and there is no winner nor a loser in mediation. Each party who is at the table goes back as a winner, this facet of mediation is what parties must also understand. If a mediator is able to convey the message across to the parties, then the system is well worthwhile.

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

Effective mediation management ability, communication skills, experience in the specific genre of mediation for ex: labour, real estate, landlord tenant and more importantly the ability to remain emotionless and expressionless during highly pressures situations.

  1. 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? 

From an Indian point of view, mediation is not new at all. Let me take this opportunity to inform the reader about a system of justice that was prevalent in India for the last 450-500 years called the Panchayat. Panchayat’s meaning is panch meaning 5 and nyat meaning justice. So essentially a group of 5 elderly statesman of the village get together to arrive at an amicable settlement between people and the village or between people themselves from a particular village. In other words, Panchayat is what is known today in the western world as community mediation. The oldest form of justice system that has withstood the test of time where even today in villages in India we find the Panchayat system very prominent, where the elderly statesman takes the role of a ‘Mediator’ and the parties who are party to the dispute arrive at a settlement through the elderly statesman. India has always embraced this method of solving disputes much before the British established Court System. However, modern day India lives in cities where the Court System aka Adversarial system occupies the dominant field. There have been attempts since early 2000 to make Mediation as a part of the court system, however people still view mediation alien to the Legal process in the country. They want justice and feel that there must be a winner and loser in the legal battle. So it will take time for the ‘sleeping giant’ to embrace Mediation or perhaps get back to where it belonged, Panchayat aka Mediation.

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

Excellent option, especially with rise in costs, mediation could be that one factor that enables the parties to settle.

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

If you are from a mature legal system where mediation is an integral part, then it could be a profession but if you are from an emerging legal system with teething problem, I would recommend you be a mediator part time and before making the leap once you are sure that mediation is where you to be. Should that be the case, you must ensure you do not stay within the confines of your country but expand other countries within Europe where your expertise may be wanted!!

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

DR is here to stay. In a world where technology is eclipsed by a later one every 10 seconds, ODR will eclipse the traditional face to face mediation in the next year to two. People who see themselves in the industry for the long haul will have to embrace the tectonic shift in the way disputes are being resolved across the world. With rise in costs, time at a premium and the need to multi task growing stronger day by day, online mediation could be that one stop shop for the purists to hone their skills. I would pretty much say any dispute between parties can be resolved online. However, one key area where Online Mediation could make a significant difference is Border Conflicts or International conflicts between States who go out of the way to discuss issues by hosting summits, the Premier’s visiting one another to diffuse the dispute, all these can be address through online mediation. Imagine a situation, where through ‘hours’ of online mediation Mediators are able to arrive at a solution for Israel Palestine dispute vis a vis ‘years’ of mediations which have not shown the desired results !

  1. What is the work of an international mediator?

The ability to be like a chameleon and adopt to the surrounding environment.

  1. What does a family mediator do?

Not my fore !

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

I would never bring offences against the state to be mediated! For example if you have committed a heinous crime like Murder or Rape, how can you mediate! Does mediation have the requisite answers to Criminal mediation, No. However people who advocate criminal mediation will say that offenders deserve a second chance, but I would beg to differ. There is a criminal justice system that is codified by the law makers to act as a deterrent from committing offences once again, so for mediation to embrace Criminal Mediation would set a very bad precedent.

  1. 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?

The ability to still look straight into the eye with head held high and say to your warring party that mediation is well worthwhile, primarily because it builds consensus even between warring parties. It allows people to let go of the grudge and ensure they are able to maintain cordial relation if not maintain civility between warring parties.

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

Yes, Yes and Yes.

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

I am one of the Co Founders of Mediateitonline (MIO) an organisation that provides state of the art mediation technology for organisations around the globe. Our ODR platform offers a unique perspective for organisations looking to embrace technology to help and enable them to solve disputes on the world wide web. We offer a tailor made case management system to suit each client’s individual needs coupled with an un-paralleled Chat Room which mirrors a real face to face mediation and an Audio/video chat room which would enable users and mediators to get as close to reality! Our software isn’t restricted only to mediation, but all disputes that we encounter on a daily basis can be solved through MIO from the comfort of your own home or workspace.