CIArb President’s inaugural message

2023 Ciarb President Jane Gunn

“We are one.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu

How can we integrate the essential skills and values of conflict management beyond dispute resolution, so that they may be accepted, understood and practised by businesses and organisations as well as by individuals of all ages and backgrounds?

Resolution Matters

As I write this Presidential message, we have recently lost one of the greatest mediators and peacemakers the world has known, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Tutu was instrumental in the establishment of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a pioneering initiative which had a far-reaching effect on the way we all deal with conflict.

The power of listening was understood and was the primary skill employed that initiated the process of reconciliation. The Commission itself was deeply rooted in the conviction that our relationship to others is central to our existence as human beings.

Top Performing Companies

Back in 1995, I took part in The Tomorrow’s Company Inquiry that asked business leaders one vital question “What will differentiate the top performing companies of the future?”

The answer was two-fold:

1. The Inclusive Approach – valuing relationships with all stakeholders and not just shareholders.
2. The Adversarial Approach – to relationships is one of the key things holding businesses back from achieving their true potential.

And so, my question is how can we empower both businesses and individuals to achieve growth by valuing relationships and humanity and so be more inclusive and less adversarial in our dealings with one another?

Current Challenges

Today, more than ever, we live in disruptive and turbulent times where individuals, corporations and governments need to find a way to initiate and be part of some big conversations around challenging topics that will affect us all - Climate Change, Race, Terrorism, Politics, Environmental Disaster and of course Covid19.

There is no more relevant time than now to consider how the skills of dispute resolution and conflict management might help.

In his paper “2020 Vision”, Michael Leathes, former in-house counsel with a number of international companies and long-term proponent of the early use of dispute resolution and conflict management, predicted that:

1. Mediation will no longer be viewed as an alternative form of dispute resolution and will elevate to become the primary form.

2. In the commercial arena, good conflict management will be considered part of good corporate governance.

3. Companies will design their own systems for evaluating, managing and resolving disputes.

In his 2020 review, Michael Leathes went on to provide 2 key updates to his vision:

  • That the use of mediation should be seen as extending beyond dispute resolution. 
  • Negotiation, mediation and collaboration skills should routinely be included in core education.

My Vision for 2022 and Beyond

I was nicknamed “The Barefoot Mediator” during lockdown as I wasn’t wearing shoes in virtual meetings and it seems to have stuck!

Looking into the term “Barefoot” it originates from the Barefoot Doctors in China. They were country folk working in their own paddy fields who trained in basic medicine to help spread healthcare and reduce infection rates. 

It was a low-cost strategy to achieve high health outcomes and the core principle was to “keep people healthy” - Barefoot Doctors were part of the community.

My vision for this Presidential year and beyond is that people from all walks of life are able to apply the principles of mediation and conflict management in their own families, workplaces and communities.

And so, it seems appropriate to reflect on how this vision aligns with Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ (CIArb) own mission and strategic aims.

 The CIArb’s strategy for 2021-2023 has three primary aims:

  • Promote the constructive resolution of disputes across the globe
  • Be a global inclusive thought leader
  • Develop and support an inclusive global community of diverse dispute resolvers.

Let’s Peace It Together

Reflecting on Michael Leathes’ “2020 Vision”, my Presidential vision and CIArb’s mission and strategic aims give me immense hope for the future. As a global community of business leaders, thought leaders and individuals we have a unique opportunity, at a pivotal point in history, to promote the essence and the principles of dispute resolution and conflict management to create a more harmonious and peaceful world.

Using and promoting the various skills, tools, mindsets and methods that we are trained in and recognising the opportunities to take them beyond the parameters of litigation and formal dispute resolution, the CIArb is full of visionaries who can help to fulfil these aims and potential for 2022 and beyond!

The only way to predict the future is to make it happen.

“In our fragile and crowded world, we can survive only together. We can be truly free, ultimately, only together. We can be human only together.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Let’s Peace It Together