To me, mediation represents an enlightened way of doing things at a time when we really need it – locally, nationally, and internationally.

Focussing on interests rather than positions, separating people from the problem, accepting that there are two (or more) sides to most (if not all) stories, understanding the reality of difference and diversity – and finding ways to work creatively with these: these trip off the tongue in our training courses but are fundamental to the future of our common humanity.

But the more I see of mediation, I have come to realise that it represents more than simply helping people to negotiate.

A mediator is a skilled third party, who has no stake in the outcome or the issues, and who is trained to help those involved to gain an understanding of what matters and to explore possibilities which may be difficult for them to discuss face to face in classic negotiation. He or she should often be able to help people to identify possibilities (or, to use the jargon, "add value") which would not necessarily become apparent otherwise.

This has various elements based in game theory, economics, risk analysis, human behaviour, psychology and the engagement of emotion with which I am only now becoming a little more familiar – and a little more comfortable.

The next step in mediation, for many of us, will be to identify, assess and articulate better what we mean by all of this. We are, I believe, still in the foothills. What we do there is important and increasingly valuable. But what might come as we move upwards has great potential to help us to cope with the serious issues which we all face at this stage in the human journey.

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