The 10th annual Mediation Symposium organised by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) on 27 September 2017, proved to be a full house with high profile speakers shedding light on the fascinating topic of unconscious biases uncovered by the latest research, touching on game theory and delving into the political and economic contexts in which mediation is applied.
Marion Smith QC FCIArb, who is also a CIArb Trustee, set the context in her opening address, highlighting the ever-changing world in which we live and the importance of the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) sector in bringing greater access to justice. “ADR practitioners are a safe haven” in the current landscape where UK courts are struggling, she said.
The morning session was led by leading experts Kenneth Cloke, Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution and John Sturrock QC MCIArb, Chief Executive of Core Solutions who are both well-known names in mediation. Charlie Woods, Executive Director of the Scottish Universities Insight Institute provided insight as a specialist in economic theory in a mediation context. Together, they captivated the audience with insight drawn from the world of neuroscience and cognitive psychology into the biases that influence how we act and react to others and examined the practical implications for mediators when facilitating a suitable outcome for disputing parties. They highlighted the mediator’s role in creating cognitive ease around the resolution of conflict and how transparency around this was important from an ethical standpoint. Mediators had a duty to be authentic they said, in providing the necessary time to listen and understand their clients.
A workshop then followed where participants broke out into groups to examine various case studies and reported back on the biases and issues they identified in the scenarios which had direct relevance in practice.
The afternoon session focussed on the broader political and economic framework. Vice Chair and Secretary of the CIArb London branch and highly experienced mediator Paul Rose C.Arb set the context with an overview of game theory and highlighted that negotiation was not necessarily a zero-sum game. The role of the mediator was to determine what was really at stake for each party and how to develop communication and trust, he said.
John Howell OBE MP for Henley and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on ADR, provided a parliamentary perspective with an overview of the discussions led by the APPG on their efforts to foster a change in the culture of dispute resolution in the UK. Whilst some sectors were well-acquainted with using ADR, such as in construction, he highlighted the need for it to be better utilised in areas such as planning where parties often go straight to judicial review.
Anne-Marie Blaney MCIArb, former Chair of the CIArb Irish Branch, examined ethics in legal and corporate frameworks, stressing the need for widespread partnership in order to increase mediation uptake and deliver real civil and social justice value. She highlighted the EU project ‘Mediation Meets Judges’, urging increased knowledge sharing and court referral to mediation. Acknowledging that the term ‘mandatory mediation’ is in common usage, she led a discussion on the nuances and variety of mandatory measures touching on the example of Italy as a lesson in implementation.
Hosted by venue sponsor Ashurst, the event drew rich discussions from a highly international crowd, who exchanged insight from experiences in various jurisdictions.
Paul Rose drew the event to a close with a neat summary of the issues, followed by a lively drinks reception kindly sponsored by Arbitralis.