5C Centre for Cross-Cultural Conflict Conciliation
Stuart D.G. Robinson 

Telefon: +41 79 447 8233
Email: srobinson@5cc.ch
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1. When would conflict parties feel happier with a litigated approach?
  • Sometimes, one would just like to destroy one's adversary, both morally and materially. The motives can be "extreme anger", "deep hurt and disappointment", "self-protection" etc. But one runs the well-known risk that the material and moral losses will increase even further if one allows emotions and frustrations to drive one's strategy.
  • In other cases, a party feels protected by the legal system – a strategy which can also prove fatal.
  • Independent, sound advice at the outset can help prevent costly mistakes.

2. Are conflict parties always satisfied with mediated settlements?

  • No, not always, but one should remember that it is the conflict parties themselves who decide if they want to settle or not. After any deep conflict, it is perfectly normal to have certain bad feelings; these include the feeling that one could have done better at the settlement stage. Such feelings are most common when the conflict parties have decided to discontinue their relationship.
  • But most parties are very happy about the fact that the conflict is over without long legal battles and immense costs.

3. Are parties always happy with the mediator's achievements?

  • No, not always, often because they realise – in retrospect – that they could have resolved/prevented the conflict themselves before it had escalated. It is a fact that conflicts often develop their own dynamics which can only be defused with external help. Turning the clock back to avoid the escalation of the conflict is unfortunately impossible.

4. Is there ever a conflict which is not an intercultural conflict?

  • This is a matter of definition. Using the broader sense of the term "intercultural" to mean "between different value-systems", there are probably very few conflicts which are not intercultural ones. If the term is used in its narrower sense, i.e. "between different ethnic cultures", then one is obliged to describe those conflicts of value-systems which occur within an ethnic culture as "intra-cultural conflicts". From the conciliator's perspective, value-system conflicts remain the same type of phenomenon, whether different ethnicities and languages are involved or not.

5. What is the difference between "conciliation" and "mediation"?

  • This is again a question of definition. At 5C, we use "conciliation" as the more general term for the resolution of conflicts in whatever form is chosen, for example:
  • a) using an arbitrator/judge to assess the facts and to produce the actual judgement and settlement, or
  • b) using a specialist – or even a proxy – to help only one of the parties to resolve the conflict, e.g. when a party does not wish for a mediated settlement or
  • c) a conflict resolution process between "non-equals" (see also Question 8).
  • We reserve "mediation", as it is defined in several cultures in e.g. Europe and North America, for those cases where the conflict parties mutually agree to find their own settlement-result with the assistance of a neutral mediator.

6. Is mediation a preferred approach for weaker parties?

  • Only at the outset might mediation seem more attractive to a "weaker" party than to one which feels itself to be in a stronger position. The latter very often requires much more self-questioning at the beginning than the former. However, experience shows that this can balance itself out later, i.e. because self-questioning may be necessary on all sides if a mutually acceptable solution is to be reached (especially, of course, in cultural contexts where partners assume themselves to have equal rights).

7. Is it true that mediation is more suited for cases where the parties are equally strong, or weak?

  • This is a common misconception. In fact, it is very challenging to find any situation where true parity exists. There are perceivable differences of strength at multiple levels in most relationships, whether in business, in politics or in private life - and these differences are distributed variously between the parties.
  • The art of intra-cultural mediation in some parts of the world can include creating an environment which defuses prevailing perceptions of "strength" or "weakness" in order for a conflict resolution process to take place "between equals".

8. How about intercultural conciliation in other parts of the world?

  • In intercultural conflicts, perceptions of disparity may be crucial to the success of the resolution process, depending on the cultures involved. This is why we recommend that the intercultural conciliator needs to be culturally neutral and flexible in terms of matters like "equal rights" etc.
  • In our opinion, the conciliator from central Europe or North America should resist the temptation to be a "mediator" all around the world.
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