Sheila Purcell, Director and Clinical Professor of UC Hastings’ Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution, recently helped organize the inaugural ABA Asia-Pacific International Mediation Summit in New Delhi, India, co-sponsored by UC Hastings.
In attendance were 220 diverse and enthusiastic mediation professionals representing 18 countries. “The purpose of the summit was to promote and expand the sharing of information between ABA dispute resolution practitioners and India as well as nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region that are trying to jumpstart mediation in their countries,” said Purcell.
After an opening plenary session focused on India, the remainder of the conference highlighted mediation efforts in other countries and featured U.N. delegates, ministers of justice, chief justices, academics, policy experts and practitioners. Panels addressed the future of mediation in Asia, best practices in court and community mediation programs, and training in advanced mediation skills. Professor Purcell moderated a panel on cross-border mediation, which focused on the movement to develop “rules of the road” for mediated agreements in the context of international business transactions.
According to Professor Purcell, it was enlightening to hear about the progress other countries have made with their mediation programs. “The strategic and thorough efforts Hong Kong and Singapore have made to incorporate mediation and ADR into almost every aspect of their legal culture are impressive,” said Purcell. “To watch these countries that once came to the U.S. to learn about mediation and see them take off and in some instances, surpass us, as far as level of activity, government support and funding, is both bittersweet and exciting.”
In India, mediation is a bright spot in an overwhelmed court system. “The courts are drowning under enormous caseloads, with waits of up to ten years until trial. Mediation is saving the day. They’re literally mediating hundreds of thousands of cases in court and community settings,” said Purcell, who had the opportunity to visit one of the nine community mediation centers in New Delhi. “San Francisco has one community mediation program and even though San Francisco is a much smaller city, the comparison blew my mind. The center I visited had 600 lawyers willing to volunteer and only 20 were selected, which illustrates the level of interest in the Indian legal community in supporting mediation,” recounted Purcell.
During her stay in India she also conducted, along with two Bay Area court ADR colleagues, an all-day training session in Bangalore for court mediators, judges and administrators from four Indian states, which focused on mediator quality and ethical issues.
With the successful summit now in the rearview mirror, the organizers plan to identify capacity-building projects in Nepal and other smaller Asian countries. Trainings may be offered in those countries, or selected representatives may attend the UC Hastings’ Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution annual International Court ADR Institute, coming up in June 2015.