As mediators and dispute resolution promoters, we are people’s people. We try to understand deeper needs and perceptions, and based on these, we design processes to create a safe environment for parties to negotiate. While needs might be universal, perceptions aren’t and they are highly dependent on culture, history, legal and financial systems, and social norms. That is why dispute resolution has evolved in different ways around the world. What makes the Weinstein JAMS International Fellowship Program so unique is that the professionals involved get to experience and understand why, how and under which circumstances dispute resolution has been developed not only in the United States, but all around the world.
While in the United States, the Fellows have the chance to experience firsthand, and according to their interests and goals in their respective countries, some or all of the following:
- Private civil and commercial mediation from the mediator’s, the lawyer’s, the user’s and the service provider’s perspective
- International conflict resolution through IGOs or NGOs
- Court-annexed programs and community ADR centers
- Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) education and research in academic institutions
- Specialized applications of mediation techniques (e.g., peer mediation, restorative justice, workplace conflict resolution, ombuds)
However, two of the most important elements are the ability to exchange views and the chance to shadow the pioneers in each of the above fields across the country, who are still practicing and can offer the insights they have gained since they started promoting ADR 30 or more years ago.
At the same time, the Fellowship Program is not limited to the U.S. perspective. I formed deep and meaningful relationships with the other Fellows from all around the world who practice, promote and develop conflict resolution through different lenses and in different legal and political systems than mine, thus enriching my understanding of dispute resolution design and practice even further. The opportunities to collaborate and combine knowledge and experience with all these indefatigable peacemakers are endless.
From a personal angle, as an ADR professional I applied for this program to open my horizons in order to promote international mediation more effectively, in particular in Cyprus, by assisting in creating an international commercial mediation culture and establishing one or more international ADR centers with high standards. Mediation was introduced in the Cypriot legal order in 2012, following the respective European Union Directive. Cyprus is already well acquainted with arbitration and has an international business environment, attracting many fast developing companies, especially in the shipping, oil, technology, banking, tourism and services industries. Most of these industries are characterized by their outward-looking character and their need for quick results, hence Cyprus, also due to its unique geographical position and culture (it is both an EU and a Commonwealth member, while it is also very close geographically and diplomatically to the Middle East and North Africa) is a place where international commercial mediation can thrive.
History has shown that a change of mentality and the adaptation of a new institution in a legal system requires time. In addition to promoting international commercial mediation to businesses, a good strategy to accelerate that process is to invest in the next generation of lawyers and businessmen. Cyprus has many universities which attract a large number of local and international students from neighboring countries. In a saturated global legal market, students and young professionals are looking for innovative methods to resolve disputes and boost productivity; from the experience I have had with them, they are the catalyst to that change we are looking for.
Finally, let’s not forget that Cyprus has a unique political issue which has been mediated by the UN over the years. This issue has many layers and is present in many aspects of everyday life. For some of these aspects, carefully designed custom made dispute resolution methods could actually make an impact and foster constructive dialogue.
Having in mind all the above, I entered this program with the following goals:
- To get a better understanding of the different dispute resolution needs of various industries that operate internationally.
- To study best practices in the administration and management of high-quality ADR providers.
- To see different design techniques for academic ADR programs in order to promote dispute resolution to the next generation of professionals.
- To enrich my mediation skills in complex international cases.
- To be inspired by custom made ADR methods, which would help with issues particular to Cyprus.
Participating in the Weinstein JAMS International Fellowship Program has been a profound journey. Although it was not easy to leave my professional and personal lives behind for a few months, the physical distance offered a unique perspective from which to view each experience.
There have been many “eureka” moments during this eye-opening journey. This Fellowship and all the professionals who generously shared their time and expertise have provided me with a new set of tools to promote the use of ADR.
-Shadowing experienced mediators with different backgrounds and styles (from the most facilitative to the most evaluative or directive, as well as transformative) has exposed me to different approaches and given me the tools to identify the adequate ones according to the case and the people involved. -Through observing mediations, I got acquainted with efficient techniques for attorney preparation as well as the individual needs of both lawyers and parties in different industries. -Through collaborating with leading academics and trainers, I gained a deeper understanding of course design and academic objectives. -Through the exchange of ideas with my colleagues from all over the world, I now have a deeper understanding of cultural factors and different legal and business systems. -And through the interaction with all these passionate and generous ADR professionals, my enthusiasm and inspiration have been renewed.
The Fellowship experience is certainly not limited to the time spent in the United States. Fellows continue their collaboration with each other and with the professionals they connected with during the program for years. We do not want just to achieve our original fellowship goals, but to share all this knowledge with as many ADR champions and interested parties as possible. As long as we understand that the collective knowledge is more than the sum of its parts, we can move dispute resolution forward, individually and collectively.