Organisation of the international succession mediation process

Author: ­­Agnieszka Olszewska

Conducting an international succession case requires the mediator to consider its procedure very thoroughly. The procedure itself has a number of features that divide into internal and external.
Cultural differences, grief as an emotional process and the specific characteristics of family mediation are the internal factors. The major external factors that are to be considered in such cases are:

• the members of the mediation team;
• the language that is used by all mediation participants;
• employing on-line communication tools;
• the location of the actual mediation appointments;
• duration and number of sessions.

Each of those features introduces more efficiency in the decision-making process, by either increasing or decreasing the chances of a mutual understanding between the sides involved in the conflict. In accordance with the principle of neutrality, the mediator is responsible for following the mediation procedure, however, it is the parties’ role to that accept the solutions.

An international mediation involves parties of different ethnic backgrounds or those residing various countries. In international mediation, most frequently the mediator and one of the parties share the same ethnic background. It is evident that the mediator presents a set of conscious or unconscious personal stereotypes or prejudice. In that case, the parties that belong to a different culture do not have their own representative. Therefore, mediators often decide to co-mediate, so that the mediators represent the mediation members’ cultures. Despite many advantages of a bi-national co-mediation, such cooperation is often challenging. Some of them are of organisational nature such as finding a mediation in another country that not only increases the costs of a mediation but also requires the mediators to do some extra preparation; discussing the methodology and the division of roles and responsibilities. Other challenges are potential conflicts between the mediators in terms of approaching the mediation procedure, individual differences in work pace, communication, actions, or proficiency in mediation techniques, or at last, rivalry between mediators.

When entering a cooperation with an another mediator, especially the one we have never met before and comes from a different culture, one must take time to build a relationship and get to know each other. Working in such mediations places mediators under enormous pressure regarding its effectiveness, due to the extended costs of organisational and financial arrangements. Because of this additional pressure, it’s important that the mediators feel secure in cooperation and support each other.

In cases where the mother tongues of the mediation participants are different, it is the mediators’ role to decide on the way mediators and the parties communicate. The decision should take into consideration participants’ language skills, their ability to freely express their thoughts and emotions, and certain cultural aspects. Therefore, there are three options in terms of a language choice:
• conducting a mediation in a language shared by both parties and the mediators;
• conducting a mediation using two languages and engage a translator;
• decide to use a language that is shared by everyone and is not a native language of any of the participants of mediation.

Apart from the language choice it is crucial to plan the course of communication; how mediators organise the communication among themselves and with the parties and in which way – email, videoconferences or phone. In cases of cross-border mediation disputes it may be worth thinking about using certain online tools of communication.

As far as the entire mediation process is concerned, the key is choosing a location. Obviously, the participants who live in the country or city where the mediation takes place, are in a much more favorable position, similarly the party that uses the language employed in the mediation process. The expenses connected with the mediation are much lower and the sense of security is greater. If possible, mediation sessions should take place in various locations, or the mediators should think of another, third, neutral and accessible location. Of course, in most cases the practical reasons win, for example mobility of individual participants or organisational issues of some sort, including financial aspects. Planning a number of mediation slots held in one day could cut some of the extra costs, what is more, it potentially increases efficiency. Due to an extended time of each session, especially when the conflicts are full of tension, the mediators have an opportunity to go through many mediation stages.

European Union’s citizens are becoming increasingly mobile, which inevitably influences mediation services. Conducting mediation succession cases, currently rather rare, is predicted to become a common practice requested by many, especially those whose inheritance and place of stay are in various parts of the world. Preparing for conducting such mediations, creating the suitable models and schemas that work, exchanging experiences among other mediators, are said to contribute to the development of this significant conflict solving tool, ADR.


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. She makes part of the team of the EU-funded project Fomento.