Wednesday, December 20, 2006

End of year wrap up - Seasons Greetings

Dear folks

This is the time of year that most of our hearts, thoughts and sentiments are with our families and friends. A time to reflect on the achievements of the past 12 months and to prepare for the new year. Christmas, however can be a time of great sorrow for others. Amongst of all the celebrations, I encourage you to spare a thought for those who are worse off than ourselves.

A few examples for me are... the debacle exacerbated by the allied forces in Iraq seems to have encouraged some of the worst elements of religious bigotry and nationalistic fervour imaginable. I am at a loss to know how we can move on as a nation, reverse our warring attitudes and demonstrate genuine concern and love. The people we fight have suffered far too much.

Our Indigenous Australians continue to be marginalised and a new fresh approach to their issues and concerns must be taken so as to allow their aspirations to be realised.

David Hicks should not be held, in an unconstitutional facility, without an opportunity to defend himself. His plight in solitary confinement, without being charged, is a disgrace to the so-called civilised world. The failure of the Australian Government to offer any support or assistance, as shown by the UK to its detainees, is a failure to uphold the value of human rights. He is now quite unlikely to cause anyone a fraction of the harm being meted out on him. What lessons do we give to our children?

Afghanistan families who suffered persecution and hardship to reach safe shores were not to know their persecution would continue in camps within (and outside) Australia.

Global warming is rapidly changing the landscape and fragile ecology of the planet with its disastrous effects on many of the worlds poorer people. This however is a phenomenon that will effect us all.

Whatever our various political persuasions, Australia deserves a compassionate and capable government and an affective and informed opposition. Let us hope that the current leadership in all major parties can attain good governance – leadership about which we can despair less.

I invite you to spare a thought for David Hicks and the many thousands like him in oppressive conditions around the world at Christmas. Thanks again for everything you contributed in 2006. Have a safe and refreshing break and be at ready to face an exciting and challenging new year.


Monday, December 04, 2006

The Way Forward

I thought that I'd post this report summary from the Keystone Conference held between October 8-11, 2006 at Keystone, Colorado, this year. As a mediator, I fully embrace all of the concepts and ideals that are contained within this conference summary. I have found that all of the recommendations synchronise with my beliefs and on-going commitment to promote the use of ADR for all conflicting issues on a global scale.

On October 8-11, 2006 The Keystone Center and jointly convened and hosted a meeting of 106 senior mediators and facilitators, primarily from the United States but with good representation from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, and Ireland. Nearly all of those attending had twenty or more years of experience as conflict resolvers and many had additional qualifications as leading thinkers, writers, teachers, and researchers. This brief summary is a synthesis of that meeting and seeks to report on both the substance and process of the gathering. We desire to leave behind a trail for others to follow as discussions on the topics and issues raised inevitably continue into the future.

The purpose of the meeting was to “(1) take stock of where the field has come over the past three decades; (2) assess the current landscape and field’s current strengths and weaknesses; and (3) prepare a statement of best counsel and guidance to the next generation of policy-making and policy-influencing practitioners.” Given the short time frame of the meeting, the number of people involved, and a format that emphasized developing “propositions” to guide the future, there was more emphasis on counsel for the next generation than on taking stock or discussing and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the field. That task remains for others to do at another time. Still, much of the discussion was informed by a widely shared feeling that, despite considerable growth and institutionalization of the field, mediators and facilitators are not important players in the most pressing and significant issues the world faces today.

In addition to resource materials and “propositions” submitted before and during the meeting, three substantive presentations were made. One focused on the question of whether we are or are not a distinct and unified profession, field, discipline, and calling. The second focused on various social, legal, political, and technological “mega-trends” that may influence or shape conflict resolution efforts in the coming decade. The third focused on the importance of cross cultural perspectives in our dispute resolution work. The agenda and various written and film products on these and related subjects can be found at
The conference ranged across important questions of different sorts and sizes. Many were of an internal nature centering on matters of standards, certification, the growth or failure to grow of various sectors, and the rise, fall, and need for popular support and funding. Others looked outward and focused on why leaders in the political world have not adopted the philosophies and techniques of conflict resolution and how we can, collectively, have greater voice in national and international disputes.

To help organize and discuss the many different ideas and proposals that surfaced, conference organizers utilized an electronic “preferencing” system to help sort and weigh various propositions. A summary of higher-scoring consolidated propositions is found at Attachment 3 and many more ideas can be found embedded in the rolling record (Attachment 1). Readers of this report are encouraged to review both the attachments and the visual and written materials at
Substantive Advice – Ten Challenges for the Next Generation
In general, next generation mediators and facilitators are urged to focus their attention on the following:

1. Stop Dithering and Get Organized (Or Not).

The last two decades have been a time of experimentation, development, and in certain areas, progressive institutionalization. The current community of senior conflict resolvers, however, has not organized itself as a coherent profession, field, movement, or discipline. The next generation must move beyond the seemingly endless introspective definitional debates and either accept as fact that we are not a unified profession or get on with the hard political tasks of organizing it.

2. Put the House in Order.

There is growing concern that none of the existing umbrella organizations have fully lived up to their potential to bring together and unify the various strands and application areas of mediation. Sectored interests in family mediation, court mediation, environmental mediation, and community mediation continue to be strong but effective bridges across these application areas have not yet been built. ACR may still have great potential as a consolidated home for the different strands and applications of conflict resolution but it will need fresh thinking, fresh energy, and fresh strategies.

3. Influence the World.

Although much has been accomplished over the last three decades, those with seniority in the field have been much too tentative and introspective. To have greater impact, the next generation must look for new ways to engage the popular and political cultures and the private, public, and civic sector clients we work with. One formal output towards this end was the following statement which was affirmed with the signatures of most of those who attended:
Given that the world is confronted with real and perceived threats from several international arenas we, the undersigned, urge that citizens of our nations insist their elected and appointed government officials immediately engage in honest, direct and unconditional negotiations with all authorities and powers who can resolve these pending crises in ways that are equitable and practical for all concerned without sacrifice to national sovereignty or security. As citizens of the world and as professional negotiators and mediators we urge that proven conflict resolution processes be employed now.

In addition to maximizing the use of effective negotiation and mediation, the above statement signals both the birth of a nascent International Coalition of Concerned Mediators and the beginning of a more organized effort at bringing civility into our national and international negotiation and conflict resolution discussions. The need to convert real and potential conflicts into mutually productive negotiations grows increasingly urgent. Signatories and membership can be joined at

4. Step up the Quest to Diversify.

The makeup of the community of conflict resolvers is still overwhelmingly white. Good efforts to diversify the field and populate it in ways that look more like our societies have been made but much more needs to be done. Diversity continues to be a major challenge that will face the next generation.

5. Reaffirm the Fundamentals of Mediation.

Although the many practices of mediation seem fragmented from each other and overly self-absorbed on the role of the mediator, an affirmation of certain fundamentals continues to be important. Definitions and philosophies of mediation will always vary whenever and wherever training and institutionalization take place. Nonetheless, at least five principles seem critical. First, mediation is a voluntary and supplementary process and should not be used to substitute for or jeopardize participation in other due process procedures. Second, it should continue to remain a confidential process and efforts to undermine this should be resisted. Third, participation in mediation should be “eyes open” and premised on informed consent. Fourth, specific mediators should not be forced on the parties. Parties must retain a free choice of neutrals (who have adequately revealed any conflicts of interest. Fifth, parties with standing or interest should have full and equal access to a mediation forum to help resolve matters to the highest satisfaction and full self-determination of their own negotiated outcomes.

6. Expand the Intellectual Boundaries of Mediation.

Much of the writing and research about mediation is repetitious, unoriginal, and self-perpetuating in its thinking. It may also be much too focused on the role and stance of the mediator and insufficient in its attention on the parties. The theory and practice of mediation draws from interdisciplinary sources as diverse as economics, psychology, law, business, anthropology, and international relations. As mediation evolves to its next stage, it may best be informed by frontier fields such as neuro-biology, behavioral economics, and advanced systems theory no less than the older wisdoms of ancient philosophers ranging from Socrates, Mohammed, and the Buddha.

7. Utilize New Technologies.

New cyber and cellular technologies offer extraordinary opportunities to assist people in resolving conflicts. Recognizing that technologies can be adapted and used in many ways, mediators and facilitators who do not stay abreast of such developments may find themselves increasingly marginalized and irrelevant. Experimentation and use of these technologies should be encouraged.

8. Encourage Practical Research.

Similar to the greater bulk of the writing that has taken place in the last twenty years, much of the research in the mediation arena has been conventional and unconvincing to decision-makers who control funding and influence the supply and demand of mediated conflict resolution. A new generation of research is needed to more definitively understand its impacts, how and when various forms of mediation are and are not effective, and how various dispute resolution processes can best be effectively and efficiently used towards different ends.

9. Emphasize Cultural Competencies.

Our societies are diverse, multi-ethnic, and cross-cultural and likely to become more so. This requires better understandings of cultural factors and the dynamics that pertain to communication, negotiation, and resolution.

10.Use Our Own Procedures.

As mediators struggle to start or accelerate practices, disputes are inevitable. The acid test of our collective belief in mediation is whether we use it ourselves when personal or professional conflicts arise. If we do not set the example and demonstrate its utility, we should have no expectation that others will find the value we are convinced lies in it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Action on a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY for a non-violent future

Dear Colleagues,

Recognising the global influence exercised by the US, the political shift in the United States provides an important opportunity for rethinking some of the political and military orthodoxies that are taken for granted. Please join us in developing ideas to take advantage of this golden opportunity.

Here follow some thoughts of contributors:


Military solutions are not delivering democracy, security or protection against terrorist threat. On the contrary they seem to be giving exactly the opposite. We are beginning to see something of the futility and counterproductive nature of coercive response to threat.

There is no way that the United States alone or in coalition with its allies can control a fractured and divided world. One challenge is how to organize an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. There will be no prospect for peace there without a cessation of foreign occupation. As Richard Armitage said in response to concerns about “cutting and running” we must “notify and walk”.

A new coalition of the willing is needed, involving the UN and other international development assistance to make the Iraqi regime independent and enable the Iraqi people to determine their own strategies for satisfying basic needs.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES CAN NOW BE GIVEN TO THE PEACEMAKERS BY ESTABLISHING A DEPARTMENT OF PEACE - to give voice to non-violent options in government at the highest level of decision making would institutionalise this process. Excellent bills are now before both US houses; now is the opportunity to pass these bills and support and fund the new department appropriately.


This will ensure that the powerful act justly and the just become powerful!
This involves the development of organizations and movements that are dedicated to ensuring inclusion rather than exclusion, equality of opportunity, education, employment options, and sustainable development at local, national and international levels. These are much more likely to deliver real security than efforts to impose military order.

DIALOGUE, CONVERSATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION - can be established and supported in the battle for hearts and minds. This is desperately needed between different faith groups, different political groups, different gender, cultural and ethnic groups. These will generate more positive benefits for peace, and co-operative and collaborative thinking can the replace the tragic division of the world into adversarial camps.


There must be a willingness for all castes, classes and elites to place themselves under the rule of law. We need to reassert the sanctity of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There must be an immediate end to the practices of extraordinary rendition and torture of those considered our opponents. This includes an immediate end to the detention of prisoners without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

MORE EFFORT IS NEEDED TO INVIGORATE AND REINVIGORATE REGIONAL AND GLOBAL INSTITUTIONS - The United Nations at its best is capable of channelling a huge amount of non-violent energy for productive purposes. It must be given the resources to do this.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO ENSURE THAT WE HAVE CONFLICT SENSITIVE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES - which are both top down and bottom up and that these are aimed at enhancing and strengthening the power of civil society groups all around the world so that there are immediate checks and balances on the arbitrary exercise of power in all states and nations.

Then moral energy can be returned to Non Proliferation Treaties (NPT) initiatives. These should also be accompanied by efforts aimed at reducing and controlling the flows of light weapons – which still generate most deaths in present wars.


  • Tell one person about this today, face-to-face, by phone or email.
  • Add to, delete, edit or do your own version of this email. Send us a copy and circulate it widely.
  • Start making campaign notes in your diary.
  • Tell three people about this next week.
  • Ask for time to discuss this at any group you attend or convene a conversation group yourself.
  • Send "letters to the editor" and don't forget your local paper or newsletters of any organisations you have access to.
  • Run a campaign in your own style; let us know or not as you wish.
  • Email with any thoughts you have about this campaign.

THERE NEEDS TO BE A RENEWED COMMITMENT TO NON-VIOLENCE AS A WAY OF A LIFE, and a return to diplomacy and negotiated solutions to problems. The world is too small for unilateralism and national exceptionalism. We need to reassert the essential value of multilateralism and collaborative problem solving.

We need to celebrate all those non-violent social and political movements that have generated positive social change, the Civil Rights movements, the Independence Movements, the democratic movements against tyranny. These struggles can lay claim to being more positive over the long term than most military interventions.
Non-violent transformation works. So often the right times have been missed. Now let us grasp this golden opportunity.

Do you wish to contribute an issue for action, discuss becoming a proponent?email

This message was originally cirulated by: Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Queensland; Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney;
Conflict Resolution Network (Australia)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Greetings from Down Under

I would like to commence by saying what a brilliant concept the blog is to allow information and the opportunity to share views, provide assistance and be kept generally informed with like minded people within the filed of dispute resolution and conflict management.

I believe that I am the first Australian mediator to utilise this medium (well at least I hope so) and to join the on-line community. I look forward to to liaising with you all. I am Managing Director of Mutual Meditations and have recently established the Australian Mediation Association, of which I am CEO.

This is my first post so am still finding my feet. I have been reading many of the ADR blogs and find the information extremely beneficial and I hope to share some of my views and thoughts on ADR also.

Of particular note, I attended a conference in Suva, Fiji in July called "Mediating Cultures in the Pacific and Asia". I support and encourage all of the ADR practitioners in the region to promote the use of dialogue and negotiation to resolve the current issues between the military and the police in Fiji, to avoid bloodshed. The use of collaborative decision making and consensus building are two interest based bargaining strategies to be adopted so as to manage and transform the conflict. Ultimately, this will avert the use of power and force which always results in death and the loss of lives and destabilises nations. All acts of voilence and force should be condemned.

I would encourage the use of forums such as this to share, promote and educate others about the use of conflict resolution skills.

Looking forward to chatting with you all.