Editor's Note: In this article series, seven leading mediators and conflict resolution practitioners share their unique voices on three pressing issues: the impact of COVID-19 on their practices, workarounds being attempted, and their visions for the future in a post-COVID (or on-going COVID) world. These contributors are speaking for themselves with their own original thoughts. Their compelling words come from both their heads and their hearts. Each essay is unique, yet each essay also confirms universal experiences and travails. Oddly, collective challenges and painful experiences may stimulate progression within the conflict resolution community. They may also lead to mediators taking action to familiarize the general community with the benefits of mediation. Sharing personal experiences and truths, it is hoped, will inspire fellow practitioners to consider the new world and to re-invent their conflict resolution practices and services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread court closures and limited operations, promoting ADR suddenly and squarely into the forefront as the primary method of conflict resolution. Perhaps the modern "conflict revolution,"[i] beginning in 1976 with community dispute resolution programs in the 1960's to address civil rights issues and continuing with the 1976 Pound Conference,[ii] is about to undergo another phase. If conflict resolution practitioners step up to the challenges, ADR may well come to the fore in the minds of the general public and not only with lawyers, insurance companies and commercial enterprises. This may require re-thinking of old paradigms and becoming unstuck from old notions. Mediators and conflict resolution professionals are being asked to adapt–and quickly–to the issues and circumstances of the day. The seven contributors bravely take a giant step forward by providing a chronicle of current conditions and by offering visions of the future.
~ Articles Assembled and Edited by Gregg Relyea
Hope in the Darkness – The Revival of Reciprocity
The world is facing the worst disaster in a hundred years.
It has been hard to contain, and there is still a long way to go.
In such trying times, something ironic is happening.
The skies all over the world have become cleaner dramatically.
COP 19[i] could do little for the sky, but COVID-19 forced us to clean it immediately.
This crisis has given us a huge lesson.
It has reminded us of the essential value of reciprocity for human beings.
Naturally, Homo sapiens is a mammal living in a communal state, helping each other.
Like it or not, the world is connected in complex ways to make one big community.
As a result, the virus inside people also can be carried from anywhere to everywhere.
A flame from embers and sparks will rapidly grow again and spread to the whole house.
The residents cannot but cooperate and play their roles to entirely extinguish the fire.
How absurd it is to see people and nations compete for advantage when ‘their house’ is burning.
Moreover, this could be just a beginning, for we have already opened the box.
We have changed nature, melted permafrost covering ancient viruses, treated animals like factory products, and artificially recombined genes.
We have possibly broken a delicate harmony we have adapted to.
The 20th century is sometimes described as ‘a century of wars.’
Imprinted subliminally since those times, we might have put too much value on competitions to expand, beat others, grab their share, deprive nature of its resources, massively consume, waste, and dispose of goods and lives for economic growth.
If left unchanged, we could end up becoming our own worst enemy.
Now we should remember that reciprocal altruism is embedded in our primal nature to survive.
You save others, and they will save you in return when you are in trouble.
Helping and sharing will save your community, family and yourself, ultimately.
To make this circulation happen and reinforce the strategy of coexistence,
our genes and brains have been naturally programmed to make us feel strong happiness
when we do something for others and see faces of gratitude.
In the darkness of the crisis, we can see a sign of hope.
Spontaneous gestures of helping, sacrificing, and gratitude are emerging everywhere.
Though physically separated, people are more connected and encouraging one another.
This might be the only chance in a hundred years to change our mindset.
It is time to emphasize the value of helping for mutual safety, survival and happiness.
It is time to broadly share the philosophy we have treasured, to pursue ‘a century of coexistence,' and make the world a big reciprocal community, as it should be.
It is not impossible, for we have cleaned the sky, which seemed almost impossible.
[i] COP 19 is the popular name for the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties held in Warsaw, Poland (2013), where pre-2020 climate action was the principal topic.