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Book Review: The Variegated Landscape of Mediation

Book Review: The Variegated Landscape of Mediation

A comparative study of mediation regulation and practices in Europe and the World

Editors: Manon Schonewille and Fred Schonewille

Mediation has detonated over the world in 30 years. Like any explosive fallout, it has fragmented into a plethora of definitions, practices, regulations, applications approaches and attitudes. There are numerous definitions. 60 Nations Divided by a Common Word. Little wonder that mediation often confuses people; few really understand what it is, or why and how it could be one of the most valuable applications for human interaction. Never before has an attempt been made to capture the distinctive qualities and differences that combine to make mediation eclectic and also truly comprehensible. Until now.

The Variegated Landscape of Mediation (Eleven International Publishing, July 2014) is a collaboration of around 90 of mediation’s thought leaders from around the world. It is the first work that explains on a global plane how mediation has cross-pollinated itself into such a kaleidoscopic display of both consistent and contradictory features. Mediation is voluntary, yet mandatory in some places; many mediators are lawyers yet mediation is about negotiation, not law; mediation is an art form and a sophisticated science; many consider mediation to be another way to resolve disputes, but it is increasingly used far outside dispute resolution. Some commonly-applied principles are relatively uncommon. At last, here is a book that really explains the many-sided nature of mediation.

Modern mediation took root in North America in the 1980s, but The Variegated Landscape begins its helicopter mapping exercise in Europe. But it is not a history of mediation. Quite the opposite – the value of beginning the overview in Europe is to surface up-front how differently mediation is understood in today’s world and why it is often used and applied very differently in places that are only a short distance apart. But it goes beyond Europe and has chapters written by some of the leading experts in mediation dedicated to as many countries that are outside Europe.

This is not a specialist book. It is for users of mediation services, their advisers and those who represent them, mediators and service providers, educators and trainers. Policy and rule-makers will benefit from knowing what has worked and failed elsewhere. Adjudicators will better appreciate the opportunities and complexities involved. All someone new to the subject needs to do in order to be fully informed and equipped to engage in mediation policy issues is to read this thought-provoking book. It is not just a “must-have” for mediators but an essential companion for anyone involved in any way with international – and, indeed, national – dispute resolution.

The Variegated Landscape of Mediation does not seek to propose how some degree of homogeneity can be superimposed on this versatile terrain. But it does provide us with all the essential elements to figure it out for ourselves.

Michael Leathes
Director, International Mediation Institute


Michael Leathes

Michael Leathes is a former in-house counsel and in that capacity a frequent user of mediation services. After retiring in 2007, Michael helped establish the International Mediation Institute (IMI) as a charitable institution and served in a pro bono capacity as the first Executive Director of the IMI. He stepped… MORE >

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