Understanding Conflict Resolution: Insights from the IRM's Company-Community Mediation Training

  • التاليف
    فايشنافي بالابوثو
  • نوع المقالة المدونة:
  • Publication date 15 Dec 2023

Over the last few weeks, I had the pleasure of participating in the IRM’s virtual training programme on mediation for Grievance Redress Mechanism staff of GCF Direct Access Entities (GRM DAE). Spanning five live sessions from 20 November 2023 to 11 December 2023, the course aimed to expand and strengthen the capacity of GRM DAE staff to diagnose, understand and resolve grievances that arise from conflicts among project stakeholders. Led by Mr. Constantin-Adi Gavrilă, the CEO and founder of ADR Center Romania and Mr. Christian Radu Chereji, a professor of conflict studies at Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania, the virtual course focused on community-company mediation and taught participants how to design and implement processes of mediation and consensus-building to resolve conflicts between different stakeholders.

Throughout the course, the focus of the mediation was on the fictional Everra Valley case study that was prepared by our course facilitators, Adi and Chris. The Community Resilience Forum (CRF), representing local communities from Rora, Assande, and Treeva in the fictional Republic of Kalawe, has submitted a complaint to the IRM regarding the fictional Jason Projects International, Ltd. (JPI) and their gold mining activities in the Everra Valley. The complaint outlines concerns about several adverse impacts on the communities due to the project, including deforestation, landslides causing damage and injuries, cyanide leaching into soil and water sources leading to health problems, loss of livelihoods for farming families, and inadequate local employment opportunities despite promises made by JPI. CRF has requested assistance from the IRM for compensation for the damages caused by the mine, further investigation into the mine's impacts on the community, clarification on project benefits for local community members, and compliance with GCF environmental and social standards.

Session 1: Introduction to Company-Community Mediation

In the first session, after a brief round of introductions, we learnt about the basics of community-company mediation and dispute resolution. We learnt about models in Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), the Position-Interest-Need model, and the Gauss & Glasl Conflict to learn about how to analyse and map a conflict. The facilitators also discussed in detail the role of mediation in such conflicts and the values and attributes of mediators, such as intercultural competencies. For the first assignment, it was an interesting experience to apply all the concepts we learnt in identifying the key elements of the Everra Valley case. It was useful to identify and analyse the benefits, limitations and risks of mediation in the case, in preparation for the next session.

Session 2: Conflict Analysis and Communication Skills

In the second session, we learnt about different tools and models to map parties and stakeholders’ interest and influence in a conflict. The 3P (Parties, Problem, Process) model was the most interesting as it helps mediators create a holistic understanding of the conflict, its history, and the potential pathways for resolution. We also focused on preparing for challenging dialogues and effective communication in mediation. The assignment for this exercise was a video recording of small groups of us role-playing as mediators and preparing for the first joint session between all the parties. We discussed what questions we will ask all the parties, how we will set the ground rules and the content of the interview plan for each party and stakeholder in the Everra Valley case.

Session 3: Mediation Techniques and Strategies

After gaining a preliminary understanding about the timeline and facts of the case, as well as the expectations from the complainants about what they wish to accomplish, we engaged in several short role-play sessions in smaller teams in the third live session. Following the PESA (Preparation – Exploration – Solving – Agreement) model for mediation, we followed the typical timeline of events for a mediation process and discussed what to do and how to do those steps at each stage. It was a great learning exercise to come back from the breakout rooms to debrief and discuss each team’s different perspectives. For the assignment for this session, we were split into groups and assigned different roles within the case (community, company, mediator or CRF). As a CRF representative, I had to decide what level of diplomacy to employ while simultaneously supporting the community and standing by my organisation’s principles and interests around the environmental and social agenda. I learnt how to employ tact when my interests diverged from those of the community’s.

Session 4: Role-Plays and Case Studies

The fourth live session was the most interactive and engaging session as it involved a live role-play of a joint mediation session. Here, we got to apply the knowledge and skills gained over the course of the workshop to enhance our practical experience in resolving disputes. We also got a taste of how a mediation session would play out in real life with all the challenges and complexities. In this session, we also explored some case studies and identified factors contributing to effective mediation outcomes. We also discussed several types of deadlocks in company-community mediation and strategies for addressing them. For the final assignment for this workshop, we entered the problem-solving phase of the mediation. Each party set up private meetings with the mediators to brainstorm options and generate solutions in order to write a first draft of the mediation settlement agreement.

Session 5: Ethical Considerations and Certification

In the last live session of the workshop, with the company representatives and mediators having switched roles, our last role-play session was an attempt to finalise and sign the mediation settlement agreement. In my team, it was interesting to see how we were nowhere ready to reach an agreement because each party wanted to make revisions until the last minute, focusing on the specifics of the language. As a CRF representative, I was keen on removing all language of conditionality and asked the mediators and the company representatives to put in the agreement definitive timelines for each point that was agreed on. We also focused on the ethical aspects of company-community mediation, discussing strategies to navigate concepts such as conflict of interest, breach of confidentiality, misbehavior by parties or advisors, power imbalances, and fraud.

Overall, I had an amazing learning experience with this workshop and I have gained a sound practical understanding of how company-community mediation plays out in real life. I am very thankful to Adi and Chris for being such outstanding facilitators, and to the IRM team for giving me this opportunity.