Biennial IFCAI Conference

October 24, 1997, Geneva, Switzerland


The Growth and Use of Mediation Throughout the World
Dr. Marc Blessing (Chairman)
Honorary President, Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA)
Bär & Karrer
(Zurich, Switzerland)

I am most grateful for the courageous ones who stay with us for this last session. You heard the bell ringing at the end of the pause and that is really the last post of the arbitration area. We will be having a slot to talk about mediation and let me start with disagreeing slightly with our friend, President Badinter, in his lunch address when he said that arbitration is the most reasonable means of settling disputes between free citizens. I disagree and I would substitute mediation for arbitration. Mediation is, in my conviction, the most distinguished means for settling disputes and this is really our topic for this last session.

Now, this morning we had really a beauty contest among the arbitral institutions praising the attractive features of their institutional rules and how they are going to be shaped for the future. This is now totally different, in this session here, because you all know that the rules on mediation and conciliation processes are much less critical than arbitration rules for various reasons.

Francis Gurry this morning gave us an excellent example when he spoke about the first telephone line installed between Texas and Maine. My example in the same direction is to recall the very first computer that had been built in the 1940s by IBM. I was made to believe it was a huge engine (which probably filled at least half of this magnificent conference room) that contained the first computer facilities. As far as their future market potential was concerned, it was estimated that perhaps four of these huge beasts could be sold in the following decade or so. I mention this example because we are standing here looking to the next millennium and we all have reasons to consider the question whether arbitration is holding the key for dispute settlement in the next century to come. My own conviction is that it will not be arbitration: in my view, mediation procedures hold the key to efficient dispute settlement. Repeating something which I have said at quite a number of occasions before as far as mediation is concerned, we are all only learners and beginners. Indeed, we know a lot about arbitration, but in my conviction we are just beginning to learn as far as mediation processes and techniques are concerned. It is not, of course, about mastering the procedure; rather we need to learn to refine our communication and negotiation techniques, because this is really the core for any efficient and successful mediation. Unless each one of us does work on his own skills during his or her lifetime in the areas of negotiation and communication, we will not achieve the progress which is badly needed.

These skills cannot be the topic for this very last slot of today’s Conference, but I can tell you that WIPO has hosted absolutely fascinating mediation programs that were attended by many participants, and I would encourage you to get interested in perhaps taking part in one of the upcoming programs. I would also like to add that books and training techniques, such as Getting to Yes and The Seven Habits of Most Efficient People, are not only interesting but indispensable reading for any mediator. If there is a required qualification for a mediator, then I certainly believe that the knowledge of such publications and the commitment to live up to the kind of standards described therein are really paramount.


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