Ownership Over a Dispute/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on June 19, 2017


The Belfast Agreement of Northern Island was mediated by the former Senator George Mitchell in 1998. The peace that has reigned in that part of the world for nearly 20 years, was a tribute to the skill and negotiation acumen shown by Mr. Mitchell in his mediator role. One conversation, as narrated by Mr. Mitchell, sums up much about mediation and mediators: “On the first day, I said to the delegates…I have not come here with an American peace plan. There is no Clinton Plan. There is no Mitchell Plan. This is your country. These are your negotiations and if there is to be an agreement, it will be your agreement…I’m very conscious of the fact that (ultimately) I’m going home. I’m not going to be living with the consequences of it. You are. So this is your process. You own it. Make sure that you make it work.”

The skilled mediator needs to let the parties know that they own the dispute. They created it and they are the ones who can resolve it. They can make the system work by talking, listening, and engaging. If it is true that the parties own the problem, it is likewise true that they can find the key to its resolution. This is a fair, and most effective, way of looking at dispute resolution. And it has indeed worked in one of the world’s former hot points.

Mediate don’t litigate.