CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE MEDIATION 5
Theimportance of mediation cannot be gainsaid as far as peacefulconflict resolution is concerned. Needless to say, conflicts arebound to occur in any place where there are individuals livingtogether under the same rules. Indeed, it is well noted thatconflicts emerge as a result of different interests, likes andpreferences. However, many are the times when conflict resolutionresulted in violence or dissatisfaction between parties especially ininstances where one of the disputants felt that the resolutionfavored the other party more. This was essentially what necessitatedthe use of mediation as a conflict resolution strategy. Mediation, asa conflict resolution strategy, involves the use of an impartialthird party who enables members to come up with a solution to theirproblem providing a win-win situation for all. In this case, thedisputants would outline their problems, examine what stakes theyhave in the conflict and come up with possible solutions, with themediator assisting them in selecting the most appropriate one. Ofparticular note is the fact that any solution to a conflict must besatisfying some interests, values, likes and preferences of thedisputants. These are imbued in individuals by the culture to whichthey subscribe. Individuals will have varying approaches ofarticulating and identifying issues, surfacing disagreements or evendealing with the disagreement depending on their cultures. Indeed,they are likely to have varying values pertaining to the expressionof emotions and conflict, responsibility, compromise, honesty,revenge, roles, authority, hierarchy, forgiveness and negotiations.Similarly, their cultures would determine whether there is a match orclash of their boundaries between the public and the private. Theseare the things that necessitate devising of culturally appropriatemediation. Cultures are derived from individual experience, createdor learnt by the people themselves or socially passed to them byancestors or contemporaries. Culture imbues the customary rulespertaining to correct behavior (Avruch, 1998). Culturally competentmediation would be used in determining the expectations, boundariesand values of the disputants regarding protocol.
Bagshaw(2009) notes that focusing on the crucial areas of individuals’lives as well as the influence pertaining to these discourses wouldplace mediators on a better platform for empowering their trainees.All knowledge revolves around a particular society, in which case thepractice of mediation that starts from a particular marginalizedgroup’s standpoint would have the capacity to establish a lesspartial or distorted view pertaining to the social relations, as wellas strengthen the understanding of the mediators alongside theirobjectivity. Indeed, mediation can only be seen as a peace buildingand transformative activity if the mediators comprehend and addressthe macro-level or cultural contexts within which the conflicts ofdisputes took place.
Onthe same note, culture would offer the context for disputing andconflicting, as well as play a crucial role in enhancingcommunication’s effectiveness among the disputants including anylikely third parties. According to Avruch (2003), culturallysensitive approaches of conflict resolution invokes ideas pertainingto communication competence while directing individual’s attentionto the varied cultural styles and other paralinguistic featurespertaining to intercultural disputes and encounters. Needless to say,communication is the bedrock of the mediation process and successfulconflict resolution. Indeed, the disputants would need to be aware ofthe varied communication styles, including body language, so as toknow the direction that a particular course of conflict resolutionwould take. This would allow for enhanced communication andunderstanding among the disputants while avoiding other aspects thatmay be detrimental to the mediation process. When any person utterssomething, they invite a relation via their choice of words and setsthings up in a certain way thereby implicitly inviting the otherperson into position in relation of some king (Winslade & Monk,2008).
Onthe same note, culturally competent mediation would determine thestakeholders in a particular mediation exercise. Subject to the typeof mediation that is being undertaken, extended numbers of people mayparticipate in the mediation process. For instance, land disputeswould involve the gathering of several clans, just as familymediation would involve vast numbers of extended family members thatneed to give their inputs (Bagshaw & Porter, 2009). Of particularnote is the fact that decisions pertaining to the individuals whoneed to take part or participate in the mediation process aredetermined or shaped by the varied worldviews such as therelationship of the individuals or kinship ties of an individual withother elements or individuals in the natural world. In some cultures,it is rare for the mediation process to involve only two individualswithout the participation or consultation of other community orfamily members in the undertakings. On the same note, there areindividuals that would never be involved in the negotiations ormediation processes depending on the conflict in question or thethings that need to be discussed (Bagshaw & Porter, 2009). Thismeans that the presence of some people would hinder propernegotiations from taking place. Culturally competent mediation woulddetermine the appropriateness or necessity for the presence ofcertain people in the mediation process, thereby allowing for propercommunication and subsequent conflict resolution.
Avruch,K (1998). Culture and Conflict Resolution. Washington DC: UnitedStates Institute of Peace Press
Avruch,K (2003). Type I and Type II errors in culturally sensitive ConflictResolution Practice. ConflictResolution Quarterly,20 (3): 351-71
Bagshaw,D (2009). ChallengingWestern Constructs of Mediation.New York: Routledge
Bagshaw, D& Porter, E (2009). Mediationin the Asia-Pacific Region: TransformingConflicts and Building Peace.New York: Routledge
Winslade,J., & Monk, G. (2008).How to work with conflict stories: Nine Hallmarks of NarrativeMediation. In “Practicingnarrative mediation: Loosening the grip of conflict”.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.