Association of Conflict Resolution Conference
I had a wonderful time this year at the Association of Conflict Resolution Conference, an added bonus being that it was held in one of my favourite US cities, Chicago so I also had an opportunity to visit some old friends and also visit the superb new incubator facility at the ITT/Knapp Center. There were some really innovative papers and some lively sharing of views and experiences from all parts of the mediation community. The international day that preceded the main conference explored how mediation is used in connection with major development programmes such as the building of dams and how the mediators ensure the concerns are heard of those who may feel negatively impacted by the development such as farmers and fishermen who may not have access to sophisticated advice or channels of communication. It is clearly challenging work and it was interesting to hear what sort of problems had been encountered and how they were being addressed by organisations such as the World Bank, in particular by going out and ensuring that those affected knew of the service available. Other topics included the work of Mediators Beyond Borders and schemes for capacity building but due unfortunately to rather relaxed time keeping we were not able to hear from everyone that had been planned which was disappointing.
I found some of the educational programmes very helpful. Sharon Ellison showed us how we could use language in our questions in such a way that we avoided getting a defensive answer while still taking a firm line and pushing the party to address their positions critically. I was not so convinced by a session on understanding how perception of race, clothes etc affects our behaviour. Perception clearly is important but I found the presentation of the results of a recent study rather confusing. the study group seemed rather small and I am not sure that it really led to any advice on how prejudice might be tackled. Ross Madden’s reflections on how Buddhist philosophy can help us understand the impediments to settlement however was truly thought provoking. He demonstrated how our refusal to let go acts not just as a barrier to moving on but how it poisons our thinking. Of all the points I took from the meeting however I think the one that resonates most with me was a throwaway from Woody Mosten who reminded us of Sleeping Beauty and the trouble Carabosse caused because she was not invited to the christening – in all our efforts to resolve conflict we should ensure all the constituencies are represented, including all the bad fairies!
I was excited to be invited for the first time to contribute to a panel myself this year. Our panel organised by the Commercial Section was planned to demonstrate to those working in family or other fields how they might encounter and tackle associated commercial issues. I was asked to explore the IP side. We had a good discussion at the session with a number of alternative strategies proposed and will now take the discussion forward to other activities. The Section Chairman, Frances Mossman from Hawaii has lots of exciting plans to develop the Section and will be helped no doubt by the reduction in fees for non US members to only $68 which really makes membership a bargain although as a section we will have to develop more on line events along the lines of the very successful teleconferences run regularly by the Spirituality Section.