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Mediating across Cultures: Some Practical Lessons

Joanna Kalowski

(2019) 31 SAcLJ 637

As the use of mediation in complex disputes between individuals, organisations and countries grows, so does demand for competence in the intercultural field. Yet few issues today are as hotly contested as culture, both in society and in the dispute resolution field. For mediators, fundamental questions remain: • Is mediation itself a culturally transferable phenomenon? • Can mediators really be scrupulously neutral? • Is culture the same as ethnicity? Is it something more? • How are individual differences between people from the same cultural group handled, let alone between people of different backgrounds? • Are models of mediation universally applicable? • Must mediators adjust their model to suit parties and situations? This article addresses these and other questions, and suggests some practical ways to take account of culture in the process of negotiation and in the resolution of disputes.