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14 / 06 / 2004
Sara Cobb: “In mediation it is not possible to think of control, especially when we are dealing with peoples’ lives”

Experts participating in the parallel sessions of the dialogue “Conflicts in Everyday Life” focus on peaceful mediation and creative means towards conflict resolution

More information about 'Conflicts in everyday life'

Following the opening session, participants continued debating this afternoon in the parallel sessions. The director of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of the George Mason University in the U.S., Sara Cobb, explained that in mediation “it is not possible to think of control, especially when we are dealing with the lives of people.” I this respect, Cobb said, “we must ask ourselves about the unquestioned power many mediation lawyers have.” Cobb believes it is necessary a model that stresses and recognizes the legitimacy of the others. For the American professor “the UN has become stagnant in the perceptions of the Cold War era and it needs to change the spaces given to conflict resolution if we are to think of the world in terms of a planet and not as a group of countries.”

For psychology professor Kenneth Gergen of Swarthmore University in the U.S. “finding conflicts is not a problem in itself, but the way we live with and relate to them.”

Professor Gergen explained some of his experiences on mediation to the audience, among which he referred the “Public Talks Project” developed in Boston, which enabled a group of people with differing opinions sat down to discuss about such controversial issues as abortion. In conflict resolution the group is of the greatest importance and, for Gergen, “truth emerges from within the group; it is not possible to find truth existing outside a group.”


The professor of the Universidad de Chile, Humberto Maturana, spoke of “the biological aspect of love and the ‘biological matrix’ on which human existence is based. Maturana said, “the being that grows within the mother’s womb already prefigures the personality which is to develop through interaction with others.”

For Maturana, in this respect, “there is an equal starting point for all, which we should all be able to improve through our relationships.” For Maturana, “the world is not in the children’s hands, but in the hands of the adults who raise them up and live with them. That is why is important to think about what kind of adult persons we are.” Maturana has emphasized that recognition and reflection on the realities of the others are essential elements in growth and education.

For Ximena Dávila, expert in human and family relationships, “leaving theories behind is like taking a plunge into uncertainty; it is an approach to spontaneity and reflection as the basis for human emotion.” “Love happens through interaction and so it depends on our relationship with others from the standpoint of our individual autonomy,” explained Dávila. “Love is an emotion with a very strong social basis but ambitions and expectations tend to destroy this.” We often experience sorrow and suffering when we deny the family sphere,” she concluded.

Community Mediation

The director of the Associació Equilibri of Bologna, Anna Uzqueda, explained her experience in the creation of a center for social mediation that offers services not provided by institutions and striving to suggest individual mediation as an alternative to legal action. Uzqueda explained that social mediation is important for coexistence, as it helps create spaces and promote training policies that pave the way for interventions in this field, “trying to be proactive rather than reactive in preventive ways of facing problems which are not yet manifest, as is often the case when healing prevention is applied.”

Uzqueda also pointed out the importance of understanding the environment in mediation cases and in interventions. The Italian lawyer explained that in Europe “some common principles have been adopted but a definition of what mediation is and what it is not still remains to be done.” She also believes it is essential to “establish a list of dos and don’ts by which mediators can define their responsibilities, as well as the training and qualifications they require.”

For Alejandro Nató, lawyer and specialist in public conflicts, “the system receives the demand of the conflict but does not provide enough answers.” In this respect, he pointed, “those who are outside the system are placed even further out when occupying public space,” said Nató. The lawyer favors mediation within the community as distinct from community mediation. In this respect, the mediator “must take into account the community benefits – rather than the personal ones – in order to strengthen the community and avoid disintegration.” The lawyer defined the actors of a mediation process as the affected, the mediator and the media, all of whom are important active and powerful parts. “Each part must be given a role”, he said, “providing for spaces for recognition; otherwise the mediator will be regarded as part of the system.” For Alejandro Nató “it is important that the mediator shows himself as a naturally unbiased person, and he must remove all the masks in order to become trustworthy.”