History of mediation

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[edit] Prehistory and History of Mediation

by Jean-Louis Lascoux

Mediation aims to lay forward the statement of an individual who feels constrained or hindered because of one or several reasons - may it be administrative, logistical or emotional. It has a pedagogical dimension since it is a transmission of a message. Mediation requires the qualities of a spokesman, including skills in rhetoric. Today, mediation is considered as a way to intervene in difficult situations between parties (person or entity), particularly in conflictual contexts.

In terms of conflict, mediation has varying stories. According to some authors, mediation has existed for a very long time in the form of third-party interventions in a conflict. Although third-party interventions in contexts of disputes have existed for a very long time, the concept of mediation has only arisen at the end of the twentieth century.

[edit] Prehistory of Mediation

Identifications of approaches or initiatives on mediation during the course of history can divert us from the subject of mediation. I call medial approaches these different concepts of mediation.

For example theatre can be considered as one of such approaches in a sense that it has been used to convey messages. But theatre has no other mediation role, even if some messages have been pacificatory.

Except for few philosophers who have remained anonymous, there have been no peacemakers, during history, convinced that peace research is based on something else than the conquest and subjugation of others.

Many authors do not dissociate medial approaches with mediation itself. They confuse mediation with the concept of soft justice, the rendering of arbitral judgment in the manner of Saint-Louis or King Solomon, or conciliation (which depends on judicial proceedings) or negotiation (which involves all parties, including the third party facilitator).

[edit] Criteria of Mediation

The following are the pre-requisites in order to proceed to a mediation process in the conflict resolution area:

  • Parties (individuals, entities...) in capacity to decide
  • which are living a dispute
  • which have equal rights
  • A mediator
  • who is a third party neutral about the solution
  • who is impartial about interests and implications
  • who is independent
  • who guarantees the confidentiality of the process, on the contrary to the public hearing in the judicial system and its advertising.

But this understanding of mediation as a separate and specific discipline only appears at the end of the twentieth century. Since a dispute prevents the involved parties to have a serene exchange, mediation aims at having a guided discussion to be able to avoid a confrontation (i.e. law of retaliation or law of the strongest), or an arbitration which imposes a decision (i.e. judicial system or arbitral course).

[edit] Purpose of Mediation

Mediation aims at strengthening contractual freedom. It accompanies the willingness of the parties in order to reach a new agreement following a previous agreement which is disputed. This previous agreement could be tacit (or considered as such by one of the parties) like the Social Contract or obsolete. Mediation gives to the parties in conflict the means to review their problematic situation, to think back about it and to seek the best possible solution to reach an agreement.

Therefore, mediation enables quality of communication considering a relationship between parties at the present time; unlike the legal system that focuses on the past and conceptions of rights and obligations which tie or divide.

[edit] The Historical Choice of the Constraint

The beginning of mediation can be traced in the ancient Greek culture by a philosophical movement that aimed at making people think about their relationships with others and consequently about themselves. Maieutic facilitated this search. It is a belief that an individual has knowledge which is stored in his conscience and accumulated from previous generations. Philosopher used this skill to enable a person to reach and express the best of him. This practice aimed at developing individual responsibility through the control of passions, and also at helping individuals to think about their “master-slave” relations between themselves and others (The Republic, Book IV, Plato).

[edit] Philosophers and Sophists

Philosophers used to accompany the reflection and decision-making and to help an individual to reach self-determination and to act. This teaching that has been provided by the rhetoricians became antagonistic with the teachings of the sophists, which merely considered the effectiveness of techniques of communication (with their applications mainly during trials) without taking into account the personal development dimension (or in other words the educational contribution of the mediating act of the philosopher). We can also notice that a protector of the non-citizens, the proxenetas, has existed but has not inspired the function of the Ombudsman of the Republic, as much as this function does not exist in our much more nationalist civilization.

[edit] To Whom Give the Power to Decide?

At that past time we can call the prehistory of mediation, while mediation was not considered as such, two conceptions were developed:

  • The intervention of third parties to bring out the individual responsibility and a commitment freed from passions (especially during conflictual situations).
=> The lovers of wisdom, the philosophers, practitioners of rhetoric and maieutic, have initiated the beginning of mediation.
  • The intervention of third parties which substitute themselves to people and strengthen imposed decision-making; that do not empower individual responsibility.
=> Sophists have fostered until these days the development of this conception depriving a person involved within a dispute (which can be for example submitted to the court system) of his perception of the situation (the lawyers were going to tell him how to consider the situation with accuracy), his reflection about the causes, the history of facts, his perceptions of the resolution (others were going to think about it), his decision-making up to the move to the "righteous" judgments (the court was going to announce how the situation should be considered and information selected; and what was going to be done).

[edit] Christianity and Mediation

The Christian religion has appointed Jesus Christ as the mediator of the new covenant (Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter 12) between humans and God. Some religious, representing Christ and as a legacy of his mission, are positioned as mediators between humans and Christ.

In this mystical or spiritual context, the position of the mediator is associated with the redemption of sins, which must be forgiven. According to Christian morality, if there is a sin (and how could not it be during a conflict?) forgiveness or pardon is needed. Therefore the act of mediation would be to assist people in conflict to recognize their sins, to be forgiven and reconciled.

[edit] The Recognition of the Individuals and Universal Rights

To enable an understanding of mediation that aims at putting people at the centre of their own decisions to go through 2500 years of history, a strong element was necessary to enable it: the recognition of the individual as a person having a potential of liability. We owe this formalization from René Descartes, inspired by the misadventure of Giordano Bruno searching to rationalize the relationship between Human and the world; himself inspired by the reflections led by Peter Abelard and some ancient Greeks such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato.

Ethical considerations were also necessary, more laic, like the research of the individual autonomy of Baruch Spinoza, and the first Universal Declaration of Human Rights, inspired by the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the Social Contract.

Theories of different authors were necessary to get the conception of mediation respecting the individual nature of people, such as the works of Freud, the invention of sociology and polemology, and the expression of equal rights to humanity including women and children. It was also important to identify the limits of the law and all arbitration systems.

[edit] Mediation is an Invention of the Twentieth Century...

Mediation couldn’t exist without recognizing the decision-making capabilities of individuals that will be accompanied in order to get out of conflicts and difficult situations.

The Law comes from the idea that individuals should be constrained and forced to behave well; while mediation emerges from the idea that individuals are able at any time to master them. The law system comes from the suspicion and mistrust of leaders towards individuals, while mediation develops trust. It's only during the twentieth century that first books about mediation have been published. More and more books are printed but sometimes are contradictory with each other.

However, all of them are focused to enhance and strengthen the individual potential of decision-making. In the business and company areas, we can observe training sessions on delegation for four or five decades. Formation sessions on personal development, whose beginnings have been often therapeutic, have also greatly contributed to develop the recognition of individual.

[edit] ... and Enables the Search of a Relational Pacification

In fact, our time seems to have taken back the path left 2500 years ago. It is thus during this twenty-first century that we begin to write the history of mediation and mediators. However, it is not surprising to read that mediation has a History. In fact, Mediation has not a History, but stories. According to the viewpoints of the author and his positions (consciously or not) as an ideologue, religious, lawyer, psychologist or anthropologist, mediation is observed under a specific angle and makes the author believe in the validity of his thesis. Therefore the main trains of thoughts that influence the various conceptions of mediation can be distinguished.

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