History of Mediation

Definition and History of Mediation This is a fun read regarding a brief history of mediation.  More people would use it if they knew how effective it truly is!

Mediation consists of a process of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party, the mediator, using proper techniques, assists two or more parties to help them negotiate an agreement, with concrete effects, on a matter of common interest.

  • 80% of mediations come to a mutual agreement
  • 90% of the agreements are met by both parties as they are invested in the outcome of their dispute

What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

Most people have limited knowledge of the distinction between mediation and arbitration. Mediation is a process of communication in which persons with a dispute, assisted by a mediator, reach an agreement, understanding, or reconciliation. Mediators are facilitators, which is they are there to assist disputants who will make their own decisions about resolution of their conflict. They are a neutral party and impartial to the parties and the outcome. Mediators are ethically bound not to impose on an outcome or decision on the parties. Arbitration involves decision making by a person who hears both sides and makes a decision about the disposition or resolution of the dispute. Disputants may or may not be bound by that decision. The arbitrator is a decision-maker; the mediator is not.*

Historically and presently mediation has been used all over the world including the following countries*:

China and Asia

Confucius believed that the best way to resolve a dispute was through moral persuasion and agreement rather than coercion. There is a natural harmony in human affairs that should not be disrupted. Peace and understanding were central to his philosophy. Buddhist traditions encourage dispute resolution through compromise rather than coercion. In these cultures, litigation is a last resort and involves a loss of face. Today in the People's Republic of China there is still an emphasis on conciliation, self-determination, and mediation to be used in the resolution of disputes.


There is a relative absence of lawyers in Japan, probably because of their rich history of mediation. The leader of the village was expected to help people resolve their disputes. There are also many procedural barriers to formal litigation and this may contribute to an emphasis on the informal procedures of mediation. Today mediation is part of the business culture, where intermediaries are introducers, shokai-sha and mediators chukai-sha to smooth business relationships.


Any disputant may call for an informal neighborhood assembly called a moot. A respected member of the community serves as a mediator to help parties resolve conflicts cooperatively. The success of this form may be successful due to the extended kinship patterns within many African communities.


Islamic culture has a strong tradition of mediation and conciliation as preferred approaches as seen in the use of quadis, specialized go-betweens who attempt to preserve social harmony by reaching an agreed upon solution to a dispute.

Western, Judeo-Christian Culture

In the West there is a long tradition of mediation. Churches have been used as places of sanctuary and clergy often acted as mediators between criminals and authorities. In the Middle Ages, Christian clergy were called upon to mediate disputes between families and even in diplomatic disputes. Rabbinical courts used traditions and the Torah to settle disputes.

United States

The Quakers have a long history of practicing both mediation and arbitration. Much of the early U.S. model of mediation was based on the work of the Quakers. In New York City the Jewish community established its own mediation forum. Chinese immigrants established the Chinese Benevolent Society to resolve disputes within the family and within the community by mediation.

Twentieth Century

Early History: United Kingdom: Mediation became institutionalized in the twentieth century in the secular arena where it began to be recognized as having a role in and of itself. The Conciliation Act relating to the conduct of industrial relations was enacted in the United Kingdom as early as 1896, and Early History: United States: Then in the United States alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes were being formalized as an alternative to litigation early on with the U.S. Department of Labor (established in 1913) appointing a panel called the "commissioners of conciliation" to deal with labor/management disputes. These commissioners became the U.S. Conciliation Service and in 1947 that entity became the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Some of the early writing in ADR drew on the experiences of labor and industrial dispute resolution and adapted it to the resolution of interpersonal conflict.

*Taken from www.MediationADR.net

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