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To Mediate (out of) Corona

Like most complex challenges, the COVID -19 pandemic touches all aspects of our lives and well-being.

It threatens our health, mental, social and economic stability.

The worlds' population longs for a vision, for hope and for leadership that will provide a comprehensive response to as many of the crisis' components. Mediation is one of the most effective crisis management tools and its pillars can be relevant for those in charge of handling the Corona crisis. Leaders around the world should therefore adopt mediation tools in order to overcome the Corona crises.

The COVID-19 is "just" a microscopic virus. Contrary to its tiny size, it has already caused huge global damage and will forever change some aspects of the (relatively good) old world which existed in the Pre- Corona era. 50 years ago Neil Alden Armstrong made the first steps on the moon and said the iconic sentence "…One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. The first "landing" of the COVID- 19 in our planet, in Wuhan China looked like a small step for a (local) virus, similar to other viruses the that had infected some parts of the world. Unfortunately, in no time it became clear that the first "steps" the virus made in Wuhan, created a giant leap, with an enormous effect for mankind.

Epidemics and pandemics have been and will be part of our lives, just as crises and disputes are an integral part of any business and personal routine. One can learn a lot about the resilience and prospect of survival, and the chances to overcome crises, by the reaction of leaders and people to conflicts and crises and by the way they handle them.

Societies, organizations and people involved in a crisis or dispute should act smartly and effectively, choosing the best path in which to handle the dispute and the best manager/leader that will be in charge of navigating to a safe future. Those leaders should consult with the best professional advisors and take courageous decisions in order to reach the broadest and best relief.

We all studied about the Plague, the Cholera, the Black Death and the Spanish Influenza pandemic. People who were born in the baby boomers and the X generations can actually remember the effects of modern epidemics such as Malaria, the Avian influenza, the BSE (mad cow disease), HIV, Sars and Ebola.

Yet, no history class, a recent memory about the west- African Ebola, nor even the accurate warning given by Bill Gates in his speech in 2015, had motivated leaders to prepare for the realistic threat of a new Pandemic.

At the moment of writing these words, the Coronavirus is widely spread. It has infected citizens in 210 countries. It is spoken is in many languages, it crosses colors and cultures, touches rich and poor, business owners and employees from all industries and professions. The virus is contagious in all religions; it threatens secular people and religious ones, "ordinary" citizens, leaders and even royals. It crosses political parties and has attacked democracies as well as autocracies.

The world is facing a multi-dimensional and multilayered wide-scale challenge that has already caused huge damages, and the end of the slippery slope is yet to be seen. Like most complex challenges the pandemic touches all aspects of our lives and well-being. It threatens our health, mental, social and economic stability.

Our relationships need re-calibration, some due to the forced social distancing and isolation regulations, and others – due to too much closeness that never existed before the Corona and now serves as a potential explosive on the relationship. It is unclear if and when we will return to hug the world around us.

The global economy is in an unprecedented slow-down, a big jolt that threatens to destroy or cause severe damage to people and businesses from many industries that stood still. Many factories stopped producing, shops are closed, airplanes are rarely flying, cars are much less apparent in the streets, millions are quarantined at their homes for an unknown period and only the wild animals have more freedom than they had in years.

The worlds' population longs for a vision, for hope and for leadership that will provide a comprehensive response to as many of the crisis' components, as possible.

No one leader is exempt from action. Future will tell who succeeded to manage the COVID-19 task relatively successfully, and who failed. History books of the 21 century will tell us whether the COVID- 19 virus also had some positive side effects or not. Was it successfully managed by governments for creating a safer, more economically stable and united world, or did the planet become a more violent, dangerous, contaminated and less pleasant place to live on?

Mediation is one of the most effective crisis management tools and its pillars can be relevant for those in charge of handling the Corona crisis.

A commercial or personal conflict is never one-dimensional. It is never "only" medical, or only economical, or legal or an emotional problem. It is always a combination of a many aspects and issues that must be treated carefully in the right timing, through the right process, lead by the best professional manager.

In the last 2 decades I have mediated commercial, civil and some complex personal conflicts. Some of the disputes had an "official" one-dimension title e.g: an "only legal" breach of contract dispute. After mediating thousands of disputes I can certainly say that conflicts between bodies or people are always a mixture of different issues: legal- economic- interpersonal relationship and other issues that require attention and solutions.

The official title of the problem is always just the top layer, or the tip of the iceberg that hides underneath it the full complexity of the problem.

It always makes me wonder, if problems are multi-dimensional and not only legal, why do people keep on applying to court seeking for legal solutions for non- legal, multi-layered problems. Court is a platform that can address conflicts mostly from the legal angel with legal tools. A judgement given by even the most talented judge, can only address part of the full scope of the problem and the needs of the firms or people involved.

Like most conflicts, the Corona crises, too, is not a single-dimension problem. It is has challenged the world with not only health issues. The Corona is a multi-dimensional task like a huge puzzle made from the tiny pieces of our lives. The present and future consequences of the pandemic will not be resolved only through a single discipline. A new vaccine or medicine will not supply oxygen to the badly injured economy and to those who desperately suffer loneliness during quarantine time.

So what mediation methods can be useful to the Corona challenges?

• Mediation is the only dispute resolution method that can assist parties to unveil as the many dimensions of the problems, (the official and hidden ones) in order to generate a comprehensive settlement in relatively short time. Full range, comprehensive handling of the Corona pandemic is what we all long for in order to gain back our personal freedom, some social life and economic hope.

• Like crises that are being solved in mediation- A significant and enduring event like the COVID-19 pandemic, must be handled by a multi-disciplinary prism of courageous leadership that consults and work collaboratively with a team of relevant advisors. Only such strategy can map the full scope of the crisis and its future consequences as well as the relevant groups that may be effected by the pandemic and then, lead towards achieving the most effective and widest solutions for post corona better days.

• Lack of control, great fears (may they be economical, personal, employment wise or other) are normal components of most conflicts and are also part of the pandemic consequences. These negative feelings can all be replaced with positive emotions like hope, optimism, certainty and stability when reaching an agreed solution in mediation. Same can happen to people, organizations and societies when handling the Corona from a wide perspective and not just through the health prism.

• A professional mediator will harness all parties and their advisors to work collaboratively in order to find the best common desirable route out of the problematic zone. Especially during Corona times leaders should use this method.  Mediators they shall navigate all the relevant actors towards a paradigm change, instead of working against each other working in collaboration as a team, with personal and group responsibility for achieving mutual goal a comprehensive framework. Leaders like mediators should be working with team of multi-discipline advisors towards bringing better and more stable days.

Leaders around the world should adopt mediation tools in order to overcome the Corona crises. A broad approach is required in order to handle as many dimensions and consequences of the Corona crisis. The broader the approach of the leaders will be, the grater is the chance to formulate a successful exit strategy out of the crisis and to gain back, some sense of stability and closeness. Only a holistic treatment that will acknowledge the different cores of the Corona and balance between the diverse needs, will bring a relief and hope for the citizens of the world.

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Orit Asnin

Orit Asnin is an independent full time Mediator, expert in business and inter-personal conflict management, Lecturer and Trainer. She specializes in complex, multi-party conflicts that are often emotionally loaded, some with cross-cultural parties. Since 1999 she has served as a full- time mediator, with high track record in more than… MORE >

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