David Watkinson reflects on ‘What went wrong with Mediation?’

So why is there less resort to mediation happening than might be expected, considering all the advantages? Because, as suggested by the article circulated by mediationworld this February, http://www.mediate.com/articles/GavrilaAbl20140207.cfm  these advantages are less apparent to parties to a dispute (users) than they are to mediators and courts – and for good reason. This article is a healthy “reality check” for mediators, rather than by them.
In summary, the authors, Constantin-Adi Gavrila of the Romanian Mediation Council and Christian-Radu Chereji, look at the reasons given for choosing mediation and question whether they are attractive to users. For example, mediation has been promoted as the answer to “overcrowded and congested courts”. The authors comment “What do the parties …care about this issue? Are they supposed to use mediation for the sake of poor judges, overwhelmed by workload…As taxpayers…. [it] is their right to…access to justice, which is sustained by their own money”. They continue “Promoting mediation as cost-effective is also risky. It sends a message that mediation is a cheaper alternative to “serious” justice, therefore a service designed for those who cannot afford the costs of litigation (proper justice) or whose cases are of no importance to the courts or society”….”If overcrowded and congested courts were the main reason for reform, then why not simply train and hire more judges and add more rooms to the courthouses….Wouldn’t it be easier and of greater use to just follow the well known paths-justice as known by the general public?”
Much more is touched upon; the growth of compulsory mediation, the inability of the mediation world to agree on a definition, users’ own sense of the importance of their issues to them and the thorny question of regulation.
The article is a salutary reminder that mediation should be promoted as of value to users – a point to be put at the fore-front, and not trailing in the rear.

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About helenc

mediator, barrister, restorative justice facilitator
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