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ACRG-NY July Recap: World Bank’s Office of Mediation Services

For those who miss the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast meetings sponsored by ACRGNY and John Jay College due to schedules (yes, we are all very busy conflict resolvers) or due to locations (I guess everyone can not be in New York City), I plan to write a recap of each gathering I attend. I hope you enjoy, and feedback is always welcome!

July 2nd’s meeting featured Camilo Azcarate, manager of the World Bank’s Office of Mediation Services. I was fortunate enough to hear Camilo speak at the ABA Spring Conference on Dispute Resolution in April.

T the DRC-NY Roundtable, he spoke on Cultural Expectations in Mediation which included an overview of the role of his office and future plans.

The World Bank’s internal justice system is split in two parts- formal and informal methods. The informal side includes the Ombuds Office, the Office of Mediation Services and Peer Review Services.

The formal side has the ethics section, tribunal with judges and similar to court), and INT or internal investigations. INT handles complaints in regards to such issues as corruption.

To try and keep things simple, I will do the rest of the recap as bullet points (I hope you do not mind!)

* The World Bank can not be sued (in labor disputes, tax complaints, etc.) so it is vital to have a working internal justice system.


* His office receives approx. 70-120 cases per year

* It takes 3-5 weeks from intake to the completion of a mediation session

* Most sessions are 4hrs and/or 2 session in total

* 65% of staff works in HQ, 35% in country offices while 85% of cases come from HQ and 15% from the country offices

* 95% find mediation to be useful (from post mediation evaluations)

* Mediations are done with internal and external mediators

New Initiatives

* Conflict Competencies- working with HR in a “big project’ to create a conflict competent organization.

* Outreach & Training- Training is the most effective way to reach out to employees.

* Expand Access to Country Offices. Currently mediation is offered via video conferencing or teleconference.

* Biggest liability of mediation programs is not getting enough cases. At the same time, remember to not change the mediation process to fix it.


* Culture was a main part of the presentation

* There are more similarities than differences across cultures.

* Individuals belong to several cultures simultaneously.

* Individual behaviors are not necessarily determined by culture.

* An example given- in Columbia for most, their version of saying no to someone is by not saying yes which could create confusion in Americans who would then think, “Hey, I think there is a chance.”

* Diplomacy styles, like mentioned above are valued more in country offices compared to HQ (as per their research).

* Lots of references to Hofstedes Dimensions- Indivudualism, Power Distance, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance and Time. The first two were gone into detail.

* Individualism– High assertiveness compared to low. Countries like USA & Australia are high, while China and West Africa are low.

* High– opinions, self interest and conflict are good (low is the opposite).
Power Distance- Degree in which less powerful members of the group expect unequal distribution of power. Confused? Read more on it [here]

Comments During Q&A

* We adapt regardless our personal beliefs.

* Confidentiality- don’t offer more than you can promise!

* In mediation, there is confidentiality NOT amnesia!

* His office no longer does conflict coaching as 1) that is more for the ombuds office and 2) it was seen as undermining actual mediations.

* As the administrator of the office, he has to keep certain standards, mainly ensuring mediators stick to the model of empowering the parties in used in all locations regardless of the cultural expectations- for example, parties stating, “we want evaluation!”

* To add to the above point, it was stated the model of empowering the parties must also be done while somehow also adopting to the cultures of the country office.

Quote of the Day

Camilo compared hybrid processes such as Med-Arb to having a nice, lovely salad with delicious dressing on it….then adding ketchup on top! Brilliant Camilo, brilliant!

Someone in the audience remarked this gem in regards to engagement/dialogue, “Connection before content.”


From my not-scientific-at-all count, there were approximately 70 people at today’s gathering which was fantastic. As usual, a consistent, positive result to attending the monthly gathering is to see people I know as well as meeting new people. With such a large group showing up today, it was wonderful to see the ADR community in New York City thriving.


Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School… MORE >

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