SINGAPORE MEDIATION LECTURE
The Singapore Mediation Lecture series aims to enhance the understanding and use of mediation in resolving cross-border commercial disputes.
ON TIPTOES THROUGH THE MINEFIELD: CULTURAL DIMENSIONS OF MEDIATION
Few issues are as hotly contested as culture both in society and in the dispute resolution field.
The draft United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (expected to be called the Singapore Convention on Mediation) is likely to increase the use of mediation in cross-border disputes, making intercultural issues even more pertinent.
While mediators are trained in how to manage cultural diversity, that training is now rejected either as too narrow or too broad. With the advent of neuroscience, the old proponents of mediation as culturally transferable and mediators as scrupulously neutral are back with us. They insist the brain governs our reactions, which are as unique and unpredictable as we are ourselves.
So why bother with culture at all? The stark reality of managing cross-border negotiations will mean that culture will play a role and the failure to address cultural sensitivities and interests risk placing many a settlement in jeopardy.
Does culture equate ethnicity, or is it something more? How are individual differences between people from the same cultural group handled, let alone between people of different backgrounds? To what extent can process design assist? Will an evaluative approach serve parties better than a facilitative approach, and if so, how does one decide when one approach is preferable and when not?
Users, however, are not asking these questions. All they ask of those assisting them in intercultural negotiations and mediations is that they do not fail to deliver the best possible chance of a successful outcome.
For practitioners, such doubts have turned intercultural mediation into a minefield. Some negotiators and mediators who are wary of falling into error, have retreated into the mistaken belief that culture does not matter. It does.
Ms Kalowski will address these issues and provide suggestions on how to take account of culture in disputing and in resolution, with the aim of ensuring there are confident interculturally skilled mediators able to take on complex disputes between individuals, organisations and countries.