International mediation: conducting a succession conflict assessment

Author: Agnieszka Olszewska


Conducting an international succession mediation requires some preparation on mediator’s side, namely, performing conflict assessment. The mediator has more opportunity to analyse the situation and to draft an appropriate mediation’s plan.

There are four key elements of assessment:

  • drafting a maps for the stakeholders;
  • conflict’s history;
  • analysing and investigating conflict’s sources;
  • analysing needs and interest of all parties.

The stakeholder map: participants of a conflict

Conflict’s participants divide into two categories: direct and indirect. International succession mediation’s direct participants are heirs or in cases of pre-succession mediation, testators and heirs. Indirect participants are people who are not engaged in the conflict directly, yet having an informal influence on the course of mediation, or those who would become directly engaged with mediation’s decisions, and they would also be influenced by mediation’s outcomes. Some of the international succession mediation cases include extremely complex family ties and understanding their significance is of great importance. In order to create a map of stakeholders, the mediator often needs a tool such as the genogram. Genogram is a graphic representation of transgenerational transmission in a family that resembles a genealogical tree. It is advised to use it at the stage of preparing professional notes rather than as a work method.

History of a conflict

Family conflicts often correspond with some kind of an escalation that was caused by certain events in the past. Obviously, the parties remember and perceive those situations and their significance differently. Deep understanding of a conflict’s history helps mediator not only to grasp the situation and investigate major details on participants’ motivation and notions but also to determine some of the critical moments of an ongoing process. Moreover, the decision to clarify some past events sometimes decreases emotional tention which facilitates further negociations. Family mediation, especially succession mediation cases, is often influenced by past events, for they impact the perception and the experience of inheritance division. The past often strikes back with a great force, especially when people are mourning. It is crucial to provide the parties with extra time in the beginning of the proces, in order to clarify the key issues.

An analysis of conflict origins

One of the important tools of diagnosis is to determine the original sources of conflict. A ‘circle of conflict’ cerated by Chrisopher Moore is a tool that helps to diagnose the conflict’s background / areas. He distinguished five types of conflict; Value conflicts, relationship conflicts, data conflicts, structural conflicts, Interests conflicts. Based on this, you can take the right interventions to resolve the conflict. Some of the factors that often give rise to a conflict, shape its pace and influence possible solutions, are cultural differences, especially those concerning international communication. Mediatior’s prior knowledge of cultural differences boosts understanding of the reasons and dynamics of conflict’s escalation.

Analysing parties’ needs and interests

Reaching out to the needs and interests is a crucial skill, both in terms of conflict resolution and establishing cooperation. Creating maps of needs and interests is required, if problem solving is expected to remain long-lasting, innovative, and satisfactory to the parties. The solution is expected to satisfy the needs of both parties. Another step is mutual knowledge and understanding interests represented by all parties. Identification of client’s actual needs enables the mediator to expand the range of possible solutions, therefore, to deliver even more effective and efficient aid. Mapping parties’ major needs and interest constitutes the starting point for working on the possible solutions. At the same time, the needs become the criteria for assessing the solutions. Problem oriented negotiations, opposed to positional negotiations, give an opportunity to reach a consensus that caters for all participants’ needs. As a result, the parties arrive at a long-lasting and accepted by all consensus that protects relationships between all family members permanently.



Moore, Ch. W. (2014) The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict (4th edition) Jossey-Bass



About the author:

Mediator, psychoeducation trainer, member of the Family Mediators Association. Specialized in cross-border/cross-cultural mediation, she completed training in International Family Mediation, TIM Brussels 2011. From 2007 she has been working in the field of integration of foreigners in Poland.