The excellent fifth annual Civil Mediation Council conference in Manchester - Mediation: Seizing the Moment - was addressed by Jonathan Djanogly, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice in the UK government. In an engaging and encouraging contribution, he said that mediation is now at the heart of government plans, taking centre stage in the civil justice system, and that enabling people to resolve their own disputes as much as possible made sense. For him, mediation "is common sense" and "I know it works".
The Ministry of Justice in England and Wales has issued a major consultation paper seeking responses by the end of June. It makes for a very interesting read.
In a separate contribution, HMRC reaffirmed its commitment to mediation in tax issues, with a pilot project underway. Mediation in the planning sector was highlighted and the development of workplace mediation also featured. The scope for prevention as well as resolution of disputes was recognised, especially in organisations. Community mediation has been making a huge impact in parts of London and elsewhere but now faces real challenges as funding is reduced. This tension was explicitly recognised by the Minister.
The President of the CBI, Helen Alexander, confirmed that business now sees mediation as an essential part of how it resolves disputes and pointed to IP, joint ventures, planning and complex multi-party disputes as examples. The cost of conflict resolution is something which impacts chief executives and she emphasised the need to sell mediation into client companies and others. That a leading figure from the CBI was addressing the conference in the context of the economic circumstances facing the country is itself an example of how far mediation has matured.
Contributions from Germany, Italy and, in particular, an inspiring piece from Ireland (where a draft Mediation and Conciliation Bill - read more here - is now a part of Government policy and is recognised as important in the austerity package negotiated with the IMF and the EU) demonstrated how far mediation has come in these countries to take centre stage in dispute resolution.
I had the privilege to lead the final session at the conference and took the opportunity to remind us all that mediators cannot afford to live in a bubble and that we must now see ourselves as contributors to the economic activity of the country. And that, as George Bernard Shaw once said: "We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth."