CIArb conference on Debt mediation

My opening remarks to the CIArb conference held at the IPA Dublin on June 16th

Welcome!

It is Bloomsday!  The celebration of an odyssey that has captured the imagination of the world. Even the mediation community.

I thought I was bad enough trying to find a link between mediation and Ulysses, but I was not the only one.

Among the seminal texts used by mediators is ‘Getting to Yes; negotiating without giving in’ by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

While improvisation and thinking outside the box are useful tools for mediators my hat goes off to the mediation site Blawg which manages to see a connection between Messrs Fisher & Ury’s core objective for all good mediations and the multiple repetition of the word YES in Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.

It’s too early in the day to go any further on that!

This event is a contribution by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators to an extremely important issue for many businesses and families throughout our country.

We hope that this will be an important first step in promoting the option of mediation as an alternative to more confrontational debt recovery approaches.

Mediation is very much in the spotlight at the moment.

In use for many years in family disputes for example it has, with other forms of alternative dispute resolution  now found favour with the EU, the previous and the current government and the judiciary as a serious alternative to traditional dispute resolution processes.

It was notable when the report of the Law Reform Commission published last October on  Mediation and Conciliation  that it was launched by our highest legal officer the Chief Justice Mr John Murray thereby conferring on it very powerful judicial approbation indeed.

There were commitments to enact the bill which accompanied the LRC report in the Four Year programme of the last government, in the manifestoes of the current government parties and it has now been announced that a bill will be published in 2012.

All of this has been done in the context of reducing professional costs to business but with the additional advantage that alternative dispute resolution, and mediation in particular hold many advantages over traditional methods of dispute resolution such as litigation.

Mediation is a word in fairly common usage and this may lead to an element of complacency about what it is and what should determine our future strategies in relation to it..

Likewise it is very important that this is not seen as some ‘flash in the pan’ new fad and that it is genuinely embraced in our commercial transactions, in the workplace and at the level of interpersonal disputes.

It has been with us a long time. One way or another.

Solomon’s ultimatum in the famous bible story to the families in dispute is an early example of skills mediators are taught to practise known as ‘reality checking’! .

The editor, until recently of our Journal ‘The International Journal of Arbitration, Mediation and Dispute Resolution;  Professor Derek Roebuck is an expert on the history of ADR and the author of such books as Early English Arbitration, Ancient Greek Arbitration and The Charitable Arbitrator How to mediate & Arbitrate in Louis XIV’s France.

This gives a flavor of the pedigree of alternative dispute resolution.

In his book Roman Arbitration Professor Roebuck describes the Compromessum; an early form of arbitration agreement but whose connection to the modern word compromise brings us along the route to the modern core of mediation without any great need for Latin scholarship.

Nonetheless, while ADR has well established roots in certain of our sectors, or in family law for example, we could go a lot further.

In recent months CIArb has been talking to business organisations and others about adopting mediation and other neutral third party solutions to commercial and workplace problems .

Frankly, there may be some way to go in getting the message across that there is a better way to avoid and resolve disputes, and a cheaper one to boot.

The Courts, of course can play an important part in this and there is no doubt that they will.

However the ADR community will have an important role in promoting the message that there is a better way to avoid and resolve disputes, and this conference is very much part of that process.

In CIArb in Ireland we have over 700 trained and accredited third party neutrals; arbitrators, mediators, adjudicators and others whose services can be made available through the independent nomination process we operate.

As the civil service gets to work on refining the Mediation Bill we will be talking to them about a number of important issues; one of the most important of which will be future accreditation of mediators.

The LRC report noted the view that users of mediation had a ‘right to expect a competent service’ and not one tainted with the ‘second class’ justice criticism and went on to warn of the dangers of the ‘enthusiastic amateur’ as mediator.

And in its review of other jurisdictions it found plenty of models which should inform our discussions here, with the overriding objective of assuring potential clients of mediation that while its methodologies may be flexible and even informal it is a serious and effective form of dispute resolution for those who avail of it.

However we support its conclusion that a system (it proposes a non statutory one under the auspices of the Dept of Justice) should be developed under which the accreditation of service providers, and of individual practitioners could be structured (while making special comments about family practitioners).

We are very proud of the standard of training offered by the Chartered Institute, and while other providers offer a similar standard not all do.

As far as today’s conference is concerned, as the largest organisation dedicated to dispute resolution in Ireland the Institute is committed to making a contribution to easing the burden which has followed our recent economic problems.

Its probably important to stress that we are only at the start of a dialogue and a process about how best to do this.

But it is much better to make that start than do nothing and our hope is that we can ease the strain that is already on those with debt problems with a less adversarial approach to resolving their problems.

I hope you enjoy the day, and that together we can turn the aims we set for the event gradually into reality.