Ethical Challenges for Mediators Around the Globe: An Australian Perspective
51 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2017
Date Written: 2014
Like much of the western world, in Australia, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an integral aspect of the modern legal system, and mediation is used extensively to resolve civil disputes in courts and tribunals. However, what justice means in the mediation context is contested. The widespread use of mediation and the increase in the number of practitioners from various disciplines means there is a diversity of views on issues of justice, which are outlined in this Article. Equally, what constitutes ethical practice for mediators is a vexing question. There are no clear practical guidelines for mediators on the many questions about what ethical behavior and justice mean for mediators. While professional codes and standards are designed to assist mediators in resolving ethical issues, dilemmas still arise because codes do not cover all issues that occur; they sometimes contain competing/conflicting values, and they may also conflict with the mediators’ personal values. This Article explores the ethical challenges mediators face, including how they identify and respond to those challenges. Justice in mediation is examined through the lens of ethical considerations for mediators. In a research study, we asked experienced mediators to respond to case scenarios containing a range of ethical and practical issues. As expected, there was some uniformity in responses, but—more revealing—participants diverged significantly on a number of matters. The Australian mediators’ responses indicate that despite the agreed critical role of self-determination in mediation, mediators have individual moral compasses. These compasses lead mediators to a variety of responses to ethical and practical challenges, and to different views about what constitutes justice in mediation. Although the research is based in Australia, the findings have resonance for mediators globally, including in the United States. Overall, these research findings suggest the question of what constitutes ethical mediation practice warrants further research, reflection, and discussion.
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