Report from Salzburg: The Current State of Mediation Abroad

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by Gregg Bertram

In June, I attended the Second Biennial International Mediation Symposium in Salzburg, Austria.  This event was sponsored by the Center For international Legal Studies (CILS).  During the conference, speakers from such countries and locales such as Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, japan, China, Canada, Korea, Singapore, Austria, Switzerland and the U.S. described the current state of mediation in their home nations.

For those attending the symposium from the United States, what we observed was a very different mediation landscape than prevails here.  First, few other countries are as internally litigious as we are in the U.S.  Fewer civil actions necessarily result in fewer mediation opportunities.  And, in civil code countries like Germany and Poland, judges are charged with settling cases and not just adjudicating them.  Germany has even experienced a notable decline in mediation over the past year or so.

Notwithstanding the above, most of the countries represented appear to be focused upon training and certifying mediators.  Some, like Austria and Singapore, have established government sponsored mediation centers that are designed to administer mediations. Singapore, unlike a number of conference participants, expects mediation to grow as an accompaniment to an existing arbitration culture.

Mediator certification is a controversial topic in the U.S. but there appears to be an inexorable global march in that direction even though jobs for mediators may be scarce.

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