Travel abroad—it expands your horizons and perspectives, whether it is for vacation or your profession. You learn about and experience another culture and language, history and geography. It changes you. You return with some new insight and an appreciation for the bounties we have in the United States of America.
At the end of June I participated as an assessor in the second annual Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (CDRC), an international mediation competition in Vienna Austria. There were students from diverse fields of study representing universities from Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States who had been selected to compete in Vienna in this mediation competition. Over 50 dispute resolution professionals from 25 different jurisdictions across the world brought their varied experience and expertise as mediators and negotiators themselves. There were four preliminary rounds, followed by semi-final and final rounds over four days. New confidential facts were added to the case study at each round thereby increasing the challenge for the teams.
As an assessor I participated in a detailed briefing about the rules and the scoring process. I assessed two rounds. Each round had three independent expert assessors who evaluated the two negotiation teams and the mediator using distinct and detailed scoring sheets. After the scoring sheets were collected we gave oral feedback designed to encourage continued learning and professional growth. Afterwards some students and their coaches came up to me expressing gratitude for the cogent feedback or asking for additional insight on their practice. One student from New Jersey City University, Leman Kaifa, in the role of mediator drew a beautiful analogy describing the mediator’s job as that of an old-fashioned elevator operator. As an assessor we learn from these students. Leman left an indelible mark in my memory.
But an international mediation competition? Isn’t that a bit incongruous? After all mediation is a collaborative interest based process. This question from a friend showed great insight. The negotiation teams competed and were scored as teams. There were 10 simultaneous preliminary rounds. The mediators were evaluated on their communication, problem solving and process skills, not the results the parties negotiated with each other. A mediation competition is designed to grow interest in the field of consensual dispute resolution and develop a new generation of professionals who pursue collaborative methods before adversarial processes. While this was the first such competition I participated in I learned that several expert assessors had previously judged other international competitions, such as one sponsored by the International Chamber of Commerce.
One evening all competition participants took a tour of the United Nations complex in Vienna and learned about UNCITRAL, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. We heard a panel presentation on about the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation, adopted in June 2002. In July 2015 UNCITRAL set a mandate to work on the enforcement of settlement agreements resulting from international commercial conciliation. New Vienna mediation rules went into effect at the beginning of this year. So there is a natural connection between the CDRC competition and the practice of international mediation.
The most fascinating part of the trip for me was meeting people from all over the globe who share my passion for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and improved access to justice. I learned about robust mediation and arbitration programs that are in place in Austria, Australia, Brazil and the United Kingdom, to name a few. Just as in the US, there is a great variation even within one jurisdiction as to how ADR is implemented.
Now I’m connected with mediation colleagues across the globe and I’m excited about the prospect of continuing our dialogues and helping to influence the next generation of mediators!
Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Get in touch with her via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or give her a call at 301-588-5390.