Tag Archives: Conflict Management

Self-represented litigants now permanent part of justice system

Last Tuesday, May 7th, the report of an 18-month research project that examined the experience of 259 self-represented litigants in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia was released.

Professor Julie Macfarlane

Author of the study, Julie Macfarlane, a law professor at the University of Windsor, notes:

“People aren’t doing this because they woke up one morning and thought, ‘I think I fancy myself as (TV lawyer) Perry Mason [...] ”They’re doing it because they cannot afford to pay a lawyer. This isn’t about choice: this is about necessity.”

One of the report’s key recommendations is the need to recognize “that self-represented litigants — by necessity — are now a permanent part of the justice system.”

Flowing from this central recommendation are related proposals:

  • “develop[...] low-cost support services for [self-represented] litigants, many of whom simply want guidance and coaching
  • “the law community [should] consider creating more choices for clients in accessing lawyers — in particular in the financial structure of legal services [and]
  • [there should be] “an “open­-minded re­-examination” of the rules that protect the role of lawyers while limiting the roles of other legally trained professionals.”

The complete Canadian Press news report of this study can be read by clicking here.

Role Mediation Played in Cuban Missile Crisis Revealed

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis when the United States and the former Soviet Union were poised on the brink of nuclear war and the world collectively held its breath.

On Monday, October 22, 1962, President Kennedy announced a U.S. naval blockade to form a 500-mile circle around Cuba, where Soviet missiles with nuclear warhead capability had earlier been detected, and threatened to sink any Soviet ship crossing the blockade.  The crisis ended on Sunday, October 28th, with the announcement by Soviet premier Khrushchev of the dismantling of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.

As Paul Koring of The Globe and Mail notes today:

UN Secretary General U Thant 1968 / Wikipedia

Mostly forgotten, the United Nations untested Secretary-General U Thant played a pivotal role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Half a century later, with the UN regarded almost with contempt by many, including Canada’s outspoken Foreign Minister John Baird, the key role of diplomacy in averting nuclear doomsday has emerged from dusty archives, perhaps as a lesson worth remembering.

“In the historical record, U Thant has largely been written out of the crisis,” says Walter Dorn, who heads the Security and International Affairs department at Canadian Forces College, in Toronto. The Kennedy camp preferred to portray their man as a gutsy Cold Warrior, not a President so unnerved by the hawks in his own camp that he sought mediation by the UN.

Yet at one critical juncture, American diplomats woke U Thant at midnight and begged him to deliver a face-saving solution to the Russians. And long before the term “shuttle” diplomacy was in vogue, the obscure Burmese diplomat who became Secretary-General almost by accident following the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in a Congo plane crash, was defining it.

“Hardly anybody know about what U Thant did … but at one point there were separate teams on the 38th floor of the UN building – a U.S. team and a Soviet team – and U Thant was literally shuttling between the two rooms,” Mr. Dorn said in an interview.
U Thant went to Havana, brought back the body of the downed American pilot, calmed Fidel Castro and – months later – after it was all over, was quietly thanked by both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev.

Read the entire news feature and its accompanying sidebars at The Globe and Mail.

Transformative Dialogue Highly-Effective in Ethno-Political Conflicts

Dan Simon

In this post yesterday on his blog, Dan Simon draws from a White Paper by Erik Cleven published by the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation to review the three basic reasons transformative practice is highly-effective when applied to ethno-political conflicts.

1)  Ethically speaking, it’s not appropriate for an intervenor to presume to know what the appropriate goals of the intervention are, as intervenors often do in current peacebuilding frameworks.  Cleven points out that even such a noble goal as peace may be less important in some circumstances than the participants’ autonomy  – their opportunity to make their own decisions.

“If we [as intervenors] bring a framework for peacebuilding to a group of participants, we have already made important decisions about how to view the conflict, how to talk about it and what we ultimately want to do about it, without the involvement of the parties in these decisions. In fact, we are imposing these frameworks on the discussions, something which could result in topics that the participants deem to be important never
being discussed, or forcing them to talk about things they do not want to talk about.” 
(Cleven, p. 7)
2)  Next Cleven observes that an intervenor pushing for change can both endanger participants and foster changes that are not sustainable. He cites the example of the American Civil Rights movement, where important progress was made toward social justice.  But the progress that occurred in the 50′s and 60′s may not have been possible in the 20′s and 30′s – it would have been unhelpful and likely dangerous for an intervenor to have pushed protesters toward taking action earlier – the protesters themselves needed to make their own decisions about the risks, the potential benefits, and the other factors that weighed into their decisions about when and how to act.  As another example, an intervenor nowadays in Afghanistan might wish for women’s rights to be advanced – as Cleven does himself.  But it would be problematic, Cleven says, for him or other intervenors to push women there to take action, as that action could bring great harm to them under current conditions.

3)  Further, Cleven asserts that the transformative framework takes the relational aspect of peacebuilding much further by integrating it with the idea of party deliberation and decision-making.  He says this framework asks the question “Who needs to talk to whom about what and how?” Asking these questions of the participants leads to more meaningful answers. [...]

Cleven then explains how an intervenor proceeds in this framework, with constant respect for participants’ autonomy, including especially their choices about when not to participate.

Cleven’s White Paper is available for purchase here by scrolling down to Who Needs to Talk to Whom About What and How? Transformative Dialogue in Settings of Ethnopolitical Conflict.

You can read Dan Simon’s post in its entirety here.

Seeing sometimes really is believing

The McGurk Effect: “The visual information a person gets from seeing a person speak changes the way they hear the sound.”  The video below demonstrates this illusion with the sound  ’ba’ that becomes heard as ‘fa’ when the movement of the lips is changed:

This phenomenon has implications for social interaction, including conflict interaction.

Walking from No to Yes

From ted.com:

an elegant, simple (but not easy) way to create agreement in even the most difficult situations — from family conflict to, perhaps, the Middle East.

Please watch this 18 minute video of William Ury, co-author of “Getting to Yes”

Empathy and Humankind

According to its website,

The Royal Society of Arts in London.

Image via Wikipedia

For over 250 years the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Our approach is multi-disciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.

One of the RSA’s most interesting, and I daresay successful projects, is the animation of excerpts of lectures by prominent thinkers.

In the RSA animation below, economist Jeremy Rifkin talks about the soft-wiring of humans for empathy.  The excerpt is very rich with ideas and optimism for expanding the human family.  In it, he defines empathy as the acknowledgement of death and reaffirmation of life.  Many early political thinkers identified the fear of death and the concomitant instinct for self-preservation as driving forces for enlarging the family to society and cultures in order to protect individuals from the brutality, aggression and violence of human life.  What is quite interesting here is that starting with the discovery of mirror neurons, Rifkin takes the human coming-to-terms with death beyond nation-state consciousness and theological consciousness to something more universal and inclusive.

RSA Animate – The Empathic Civilisation, posted with vodpod
(h/t: Dr. Marsha Lucas)

Aung San Suu Kyi Turns 65 June 18th

As Myanmar prepares for its upcoming elections, a sense of concern and tension is in the air. Many fear that there will once again be political unrest, resulting in widespread arrests from election-related crackdowns. Moreover, contributing to the anxiety is the anticipated release of democracy leader and co-founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has endured unofficial detention and has been held under house arrest for about 15 years in Yangon.

Mediate.com Recognized for Excellence as Problem Solver

The American Bar Association (ABA) has announced that mediate.com is the recipient of its 2010 Lawyer as Problem Solver Award.

In granting this prestigious award, the ABA stated:

Mediate.com has been at the forefront of making the power of the Internet accessible to lawyers, mediators and dispute resolution practitioners. Mediate.com has been developing digital products and resources that have advanced the presence and depth of the field of dispute resolution in immeasurable ways and fundamentally altered the practice of mediation by making online strategies practical and available.

Mediate.com offers the field one of the most used information resources, replete with blogs, cutting edge articles, news of mediation and negotiation practice, as well as a place for interactive dialogue. The website is a practical tool for practitioners and helps them become more effective problem solvers.

“Mediate.com applies the technology of the internet directly to lawyers and dispute resolution practitioners. The founders of Mediate.com had the foresight to see the importance and applications of the Internet and bring them to bear on a developing field of practice. This groundbreaking website has given tools and resources to the public and to ADR professionals to do their own problem solving in virtually every field of law.

Hear, hear!

Power, Love and Conflict

Adam Kahane’s new book, Power and Lover A Theory and Practice of Social Change sets out a new approach to resolving conflict, according to publishers, Berrett-Koehler.

Adam Kahane

The two main ways that people try to solve their toughest group, community and societal problems are fundamentally flawed. They either push for what they want at all costs—in it’s most extreme form this means war—or try to completely avoid conflict, sweeping problems under the rug in the name of a superficial ”peace.” But there is a better way: combining these two seemingly contradictory approaches.

Adam Kahane argues that each is a reflection of two distinct, fundamental drives: power, the single-minded desire to achieve one’s solitary purpose; and love, the drive towards unity. They are inextricable parts of human nature, so to achieve lasting change you have to able to work fluidly with both. In fact, each needs the other. As Martin Luther King put it, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”

Kahane presents some common scenarios in which one of these drives is used to the exclusion of the other:

a. Common Power-Only Scenario #1: We are so afraid of being hurt that we deny or cut off our love and connection to others, attacking them (and/or defending ourselves) aggressively.

Example: Have you ever walked away from a friendship or relationship that felt difficult, because this seemed easier than confronting the person and taking the risk of having to face some unpleasant revelations about yourself?”

b. Common Power-Only Scenario #2: We are so sure of the correctness of our beliefs and actions that we deny or forget that we might be wrong — and that we might be hurting others.

Example: Have you ever vigorously pushed an idea or initiative that you were certain was right, over the objections of others, only to find that ultimately it wasn’t right?

c. Common Love-Only Scenario #1: We are so afraid of hurting others that we deny or cut off our own ambition and power.

Example: Have you ever buried ideas or initiatives that were important to you, because you were worried that they might offend or upset someone you really cared about?

d. Common Love-Only Scenario #2: We are so uneasy with or lacking in confidence in our own power that we pretend we have none — and so flail about timidly and unconsciously.

Example: Have you ever found yourself manipulating other people towards your own motives because you aren’t willing to step up to say what you want and what you are willing to do to get it?

e. Common Love-Only Scenario #3: We are so determined to keep our situation polite or high-minded or whole that we suppress self-expression, dissent, and conflict–and thereby making our situation unhealthy and un-whole.

Have you ever swept problems in a group under the carpet or ignored them in order to keep the group intact, only to find these problems coming back bigger and more destructive?

In each of these scenarios, it’s argued that a more helpful response would have been to apply both drives, power and love.

The publisher’s website promises to have an excerpt of the book soon.