By Dimitra Messini, a 2013-15 Rotary Peace Fellow at International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
Having chosen to pursue human rights as a lawyer, mediation has been a major part of my life. Even in my home country of Greece where mediation is not a popular practice, I have used mediation to resolve issues, helping married couples in prolonged disputes or companies with substantial lawsuits. Every kind of law, from criminal to civil, has a place for mediation.
Mediation can transform the way a professional practices peace building for a very important reason; it values conflict. Conflict is seen as a normal behavior and is not demonized. On the contrary, it is used as a means for behavioral transformation and for reaching conflict resolution itself. It is not easy. It takes a lot of strength from the mediator and a lot of good faith from the disputants to make mediation work.
Mediation can transform the way a professional practices peace building for a very important reason; it values conflict. Conflict is seen as a normal behavior and is not demonized.
As Rotary Peace Fellows, we often have unique opportunities to acquire additional experience within our disciplines. I had such an opportunity recently during a 40-hour mediation training session led by Claire Doran, a fellow 2013-15 Rotary Peace Fellow at International Christian University. Claire is a professional mediator from California. And having served as a program director for the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center in Los Angeles, she knows better than any of us the benefits, as well as the challenges, in mediation. Together with her partner and co-trainer, Devin McCutchen, they organized the special training on the university’s campus.
This specific training focused on community mediation, an aspect I have hardly practiced. The training included three eight-hour in-person trainings with online material. Training topics touched on conflict and how we traditionally view it, conflict and alternative ways to view it, conflict management styles, culture, mediation styles, and challenging behaviors.
We took part in actual mediation simulations, where we played the role of both mediator and disputant, providing us with a small, but actual taste of how community mediation feels like. We also had the opportunity to identify and question personal biases and prejudice towards our own approach to handling conflict, whether directly, or as a third party.
Scholars of international relations and peace and conflict studies are aware of the complexity of conflict. Even a simple community conflict can be complicated. I found the mediation training a great starting point to gain understanding and basic knowledge of community mediation techniques, and hope to use them soon in resolving conflict.