It’s difficult enough to understand “the other” but when our news is gerrymandered in a way that we don’t even get to know what “the other” is about, how do we manage in an environment where listening matters?
Rutgers graduate students are being offered a new master’s degree program, on peace and war, that examines conflict through an interdisciplinary lens. While the locus of the program is at Newark, and is concentrated in the anthropology and sociology departments, other courses, from other disciplines, including elective courses offered by faculty in New Brunswick, are also included. Students will be prepared to continue toward a higher degree in PhD programs or for employment by any governmental agency, NGO, or business working in areas of high social conflict. Competencies include the ability to analyze and communicate about complex situations, understanding the interacting factors that lead to nonviolent social movements or to large scale violence, ways to mitigate destructive conflict, and move forward toward sustainable peace.
For more information see: The Graduate Program in Peace and Conflict Studies and a story in Rutgers Today.
In late August, the New York Times carried a story about the growth in global disputes that is providing significant income to the law firms that provide legal services to clients that have debt woes, broken contracts and soured business deals, that, as reporter Elizabeth Olson notes, are costing global investors billions in losses and creating seemingly never-ending headaches for policy-makers. Profiting from such geopolitical problems, though, are arbitration lawyers.
Two stories in August highlight the value of mediation in complex cases, one the bankruptcy of the city of Detroit, and the other, the settlement of the lawsuit against the National Football League. In both cases, mediation was the choice of process to help the parties reach settlements.
First, the NFL case, from the New York Times coverage of the NFL case, there is this quote from Layn Phillips, the mediator:
“Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that, if approved, will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed.”
Second, the Detroit bankruptcy case, from coverage by MLive, a Michigan online site, the bankruptcy judge has this observation on why he appointed a mediator:
“The purpose of bankruptcy is to give the city a fresh start. After this bankruptcy case is over, many of the creditors will continue to have long-term commitments with the city…Consensual resolution of the city’s disputes with its creditors is in the best interest of the citizens of Detroit.”
What guides mediator decisionmaking? Kenneth Kressel and his colleagues used reflective research methods to explore this question in three studies, which he
describes in “How Do Mediators Decide What to Do? Implicit Schemas of Practice and Mediator Decisionmaking” (Ohio State University Journal of Dispute Resolution,
2013, p. 709). The theme that threads through all three studies is that mediators make decisions that are derived from their unconscious and personal ideas about “the nature of conflict, the goals to be attained byintervention, and implicit intervention ‘scripts’.”
The first study utilized reflective team debriefings of live family mediations to explore why mediators made particular decisions. In the debriefings, the mediators involved in the study all discussed the decisions they made and the reasons for them. The study pointed to two approaches to mediating: the problem-solving style (PSS) and the settlement-oriented style (SOS). Mediators utilizing PSS focus on in-depth problem-solving, while mediators taking the SOS approach focus on surface positions and settlement. The study found that while both approaches are helpful, PSS worked better for more polarized cases. The study also revealed that mediators know much more than they can say, since so much decisionmaking is based on tacit knowledge that is largely unconscious.
Building Peace: A Forum for Peace and Security in the 21st Century is the first issue in a series produced by the Alliance for Peacebuilding. It features Liberian peace activist and Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, on the cover and introduces the breadth and scope of peacebuilding. There is also a new website: http://buildingpeaceforum.com. The idea is to gain from the suggestions of peacebuilding experts from around the world through a free, online publication that shares stories of people, communities, and organizations that are transforming the face of peace and security around the world.
It opens a window into how those in the peacebuilding field foster and support resilient, peaceful and inclusive societies around the world.