Introduction. Looking Beyond Ourselves

Abridged version in English of the original

You all probably know that an indispensable workshop was held in Madrid and Valencia in February on Transformative Mediation, with one its creators, Joseph P. Folger. The initial questions that the great master – apologies for this acknowledgement, especially those who don’t agree with this – asked us before starting can be used to present the topic this issued deals with. The first blunt question he asked in Valencia left, according to some participants, everybody speechless, hesitating and almost embarrassed. The question was: “How many of you, mediators, have participated in mediation as parties?” Well then, how many of us have done it? Let’s be honest, I myself have never done it, not because I have never had conflicts with other mediator colleagues. Mediation has never been thought to be a possibility to address these conflicts or other conflicts. Those among us who have been in this profession for many years have been the spectators, first, of how tense and false the relationships between the so-called First Generation Mediators were in Spain. Then, those of us who have been part of the Second Generation of Mediators have turned red in many occasions when we proved unable to solve conflicts even less than our predecessors. And then we were able to make a step back and give room to a new and full of hope Third Generation that came to life after Act 5/2000, of July 6, on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Matters was passed; and so, we can see, again as spectators, many other conflicts that are not well addressed. It seems that we, mediators, don’t take our own advice. Some conflicts are really harsh, dramatized and/or exposed before the other people, or they are conflicts that hide behind smiling faces, nasty comments, omissions, and a great deal of victimisation; we even know the much talked-about separations that are or have been part of the life of mediators in our country. We have so many well closed narratives that we offer to our colleagues with devilish images about the other that seem phony when we put on our mediator hat but that we know how to densely build when we are affected and we fail to question them in front of a mediator who becomes a non-allied or can’t be an allied.

Talking about narratives, how delightful is reading the article by our dearest friend and respectable colleague PILAR MUNUERA GÓMEZ, from the Complutense University of Madrid, and SALVADOR GARRIDO SOLER, Doctor Candidate at the University of Jaén! A few times –if any, certainly the article Pilar Munuera herself published on Portularia, a journal of the University of Huelva, in 2007: “Sara Cobb’s Narrative-Circular Model and its Techniques”, or the wonderful book by Argentina-born author Marinés Suares- have we had access to a very clear, updated and straightforward article on the approach to narrative mediation. Some believe this is the most complete and deepest mediation model that was brought forward and mainly developed by Sara Cobb and Neo Zealander authors living in California Gerald Monk and John Winslade, who were before followers and collaborators of Michael White, creator of the crucial Narrative Therapy.

Munuera and Garrido don’t neglect what was perhaps the most innovative proposal by Sara Cobb, questioning neutrality in mediation, later followed by the great Bernard Mayer in that indispensable to read piece: “Beyond neutrality”. A controversial issue discussed below in this presentation.

“BUYING WHAT WE SELL MATTERS. DO MEDIATORS APPLY THEIR KNOWLEDGE TO THEIR OWN CONFLICTS?” No, these are not my words. These are not Folger’s words either in this occasion. These areTONY WHATLING’s words, a British mediator with a vast experience who has already astonished us with the practical simplicity of his essential book: “Mediation: Skills and Strategies”, published in 2013 by Narcea; a review of this book can be found after his article. Yes, Tony Whatling is the invited author to our “Open Space”, a space of Revista de Mediación, created a while ago for reflection. Again, a master of mediation makes us reflect. Many mediators advocate that mediation is something more than just settling; it is an opportunity, among other, to think, feel, reflect and empathise, and express oneself based on that. What does Whatling put a focus on? He focuses precisely on the same topic Folger addressed in his workshop: do mediators really apply our skills and strategies to our own conflicts? We have to reflect. We always complain about the lack of institutional support, and we are right, by the way, as indicated below by the figures we will present. However, if we don’t buy our products (“The cobblers children have no shoes”), isn’t this because it is not such a good product as we sell to the other? And if it is good, why don’t we buy it?

Whatling, however, doesn’t stop there. He goes beyond. He is an expert in techniques and strategies like no other, and as such he brilliantly goes through our possible mediation interventions, and proposes us to do away with conflict attitudes when we are the protagonists and use these techniques to do so in a more efficient way. His article proposes an interesting presentation of our “tool box”! I urge you to read it and enjoy, and I also urge you to read his wonderful book.

Back to Folger, when he was in Madrid, he presented us with a reality we all know very well. “How many mediators here (a little more than 50 participants) have real experience in mediation? How many of you really mediate? Surprisingly enough – maybe not surprisingly – a few hands were raised. Folger counted the number of mediations performed by those of us who answered affirmatively. He then asked how many of us had mediated for more than 100 cases, and the number of hands raised was lower, most of us mediators who work in the public or pseudo-public sector, the so-called “private managed sector”. Roughly 10% of the participants. We can think that the sample present there was not significant, only 50 mediators or we can think that those who actively work in the sector do not attend training courses; but we all know that the reality in Spain is that mediators don’t mediate.

Personally, I have been lucky to be able to mediate since 1998 for hundreds of penal mediations with underage youth, one the few programmes that has been developed the most in this country, even if it still little known and has been even overlooked and neglected when the topic of implemented this kind of mediation for adults was raised. Our experience is disregarded. What a country! Everybody is self-absorbed, as Folger would put it. We need to look out: given that we don’t value what we have home, let’s at least benefit from what is done abroad. This is what MÒNICA ALBERTÍ I CORTÉS andMARÍA CARME BOQUÉ I TORREMORELL, from the Ramon Llull – FPCC Blanquerna University have done in their article “TOWARDS RESTORATIVE PEDAGOGY: OVERCOMING THE PUNITIVE MODEL AT SCHOOL”, they look at the United Kingdom in their proposal to bring the principles of Restorative Justice for the youth to school, an idea often mentioned by my friend, colleague and director of Revista de Mediación, Mónica Rodríguez-Sedano. Mònica Albertí and the prestigious María Carme Boqué analyse the surveys conducted at 67 schools in the UK and they propose innovative practices and the key elements for their implementation and adaptation to our educational context, such as the appreciative dialogue, conferencingor the restorative circles that we will develop further in our next issue.

Let’s go back to the hands that were raised by the few mediators that mediate. Who else were with me in this hand-raising moment? There were mainly mediators that work at the Family Support Centres (FSC) that have been able to survive the crisis and cutbacks. Marta Gordillo and Elena Gutiérrez Bolívar, from the Marian Suárez FSC were discreetly there, shyly raising their hands, but they could have been accompanied by other hands from the several municipal and regional centres where mediations are performed every day. Or community and in-court public services such as those in Getafe or Leganés, efficiently managed by our colleagues of the Carlos III University.

Aside these concrete experiences that are certainly not enough, the reality is very different; but data are needed to prove it, the complaints of practitioners are not enough. MARÍA ZATO ETCHEVERRÍA provides Revista de Mediación precisely with data in an article that will have a strong impact: “APPROACHING THE MEDIATION MAP IN THE EUROPEAN UNION”. Zato Etchevarría shows us data on the situation of mediation in Europe after Directive 2008/52/CE of the European Parliament and the Council was passed on mediation in civil and commercial matters. These are disappointing data. These are data to be seen by our politicians. These data must make them think; they also have to reflect. At the same time, she presents the Italian experience, which is very different than that of the other European countries; the experience was later discarded but they are probably going to implement it again given the strength and robustness of the figures.

Clearly, when our institutions sincerely and strongly bed for mediation, it is positively developed: mediators were able to mediate and people have benefitted from a positive conflict resolution means. Let’s not call it alternative any more CARLA DE PAREDES GALLARDO says, one of our authors, from the Valencia European University, in her article “PENAL MEDIATION: SPECIAL ATTENTION TO ALIENS”, who thinks of it as a complementary means. This is an article that deals again with the viability of penal and “prison” mediation – if we can use this term to refer to the situation of aliens at Aliens Detention Centres – for this specific group. Ms. De Paredes proposes a new necessary inclusive approach that can only be implemented with the support of a committed Government, empathetic with the situation of foreign citizens in Spain.

In their controversial article, EMILIO NAVAS PAÚS, from Parra & Asociados, and MARTA GONZALO QUIROGA, from the Rey Juan Carlos University, propose to stop limiting the possibilities of mediation, “ADR AND VIOLENCIA: MEDIATION VS. ACHILLES CHOICE”; it couldn’t be otherwise without the blunt certain words of Navas Paús. Fully supported by the law, conflict theory, semantics and philosophy, and even with full of nuances mythological references, Navas and Gonzalo question the limitations imposed on mediation, both those imposed by mediators and especially those that are provoked when the raison d’être of mediation is not understood. Invoking, for instance, the impossibility of mediation when there is violence is denying violence in and of itself, the implicit one. And they refer to Galtung and his Dramatic Triangle to make it evident. But they go beyond and state that precisely because there is violence mediation is more necessary and can contribute more to the parties and society at large; provided that we talk about mediations that go beyond mere settlements.

And I can add:

  • Mediations able to question the prevailing narratives in our society, like Pilar and Salvador state; narratives that take root in cultural and structural violence that produce the direct violence Emilio and Marta refer to.
  • Mediations able to overcome self-absorption, like Folger says, not only of the disputants in mediation but that of mediators themselves, who sell only smoke sometimes and complain always about the lack of institutional support, o are even focused, like Emilio and Marta indicate, on our teaching environment or our “Taliban wonder”, whatever this means, but don’t buy their own product, like Tony shows us.
  • Proactive mediations so that practitioners can take on the responsibility we waive so many times, shielding behind our largely questioned aseptic neutrality principle, like Pilar and Salvador affirm. This is perhaps how we will earn the respect of those who doubt that mediation is only useful for the powerful to impose on the weak. By making mediation really efficient and transforming, will it be an attractive product.
  • Mediations that put people at the centre, both nationals and aliens; mediation for all of them, like Carla says; because mediation doesn’t see the differences that separate us but only the reasons that exist to make us come closer, to harmonise us.
  • Mediations that allow us to reflect and be aware of the harm we can cause to ourselves and to others, that will allow us to look beyond ourselves and, why not, like Mónica and Maria Carme, Carla, Emilio and Marta advocate, mediations that will help us to connect with our victims and repair them if they wish so.
  • Therefore, more responsible and fairer mediations to respond not only to justice – as a value or essence, fairness -, but also to Justice – as an institutional power.

May this issue of Revista de Mediación serve this end.


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It is an academic, biannual, online, and free of charge journal on Mediation and other ADR, of high editorial quality, highlighted relevance and professional interest that encourages scientific study and rigor, best practices and innovation, analysis and positive resolution of conflict through alternative and peaceful ways (ADR). It is addressed to mediators, specialists in conflict analysis, management and resolution, and to those interested in these fields.

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