“Process is the human bridge between justice and peace.”
“The skillful management of conflict is among the highest of human skills.”
Rector Torfs, Dean Tilleman, my dear promoters and friends, Alain Laurent Verbeke, Martin Euwema, Koen Matthijs, university administrators, faculty, students, and distinguished guests: Thank you for this invitation to come to Leuven, which I have now visited three times and have come to love.
Introduction: Why should we mediate? The evolution of human and legal processes
We are here today to learn together and study the components of “constructive conflict resolution” where mediation is one of the basic human building blocks of a process that allows us to truly hear from each other in the hope that we can resolve our conflicts, explore our differences, as well as complementarities, find mutual understanding, and achieve better outcomes and solutions to legal, social and political problems. This effort to “reorient the parties [to a dispute] to each other,”i and to facilitate the solving of problemsii and, in the best of all worlds, the making of peace, between couples, communities, companies or countries, requires an interdisciplinary orientation. We need human knowledge and understandings drawn from a variety of constituent fields – older ones like history, law, psychology, sociology, economics, political science and international relations, and newer ones, including decision sciences, game theory and urban planning.
Here I will use two ideas, memes or metaphors to trace the trajectory of where we have been, historically, and in practice, in modern legal dispute resolution, and where we might be going to build a more effective and creative future, through alternative processes to the more conventional processes of legal trials and conventional decision making. For me, mediation is a “meme” or “sensibility” with the possibility of transforming the way human beings resolve disputes and conflicts with each other. Here I will explore what we need to learn and do to give that meme more expression in our culture. I will talk about our past, our present, and the possibilities and challenges of some future applications of this varied process which has different goals and practices than traditional legal decision making.