Yesterday, at the Southern California Mediation Association‘s fall conference, I heard Ken Cloke give an inspirational talk about using mediation to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. In fact, he seems to think that many of these problems can only be solved by mediation. The reason for that is that threats such as climate change or the instability of the global financial system are beyond the reach of any one nation, and are not amenable to military solutions. They can only be addressed by conflict resolution at a global level. Cloke is currently involved in attempting to insert a mediation mechanism in the international climate change treaty to be negotiated in Copenhagen next month. Resistance to his idea is coming from people who say that there are already too many conflicts standing in the way of reaching a comprehensive climate change agreement. Cloke’s response seems to be that if we can’t negotiate a treaty because there are too many conflicts, that demonstrates all the more strongly why we need a conflict resolution mechanism in the draft treaty to make it effective. In other words, we may not be able to deal with this problem effectively at all unless and until we include mediation in the process. So Cloke has been organizing a group of mediators to travel to Copenhagen next month to push for inclusion of mediation in any climate change agreement.
Cloke has a lot of ideas about how to resolve the sorts of conflicts he is talking about as well. He views intractable conflicts as part of systems, and looks for methods of taking people out of the destructive systems in which they find themselves. His ideas are as applicable to conflicts within families as they are to large-scale social and political conflicts. All I can do here is draw some attention to what appears to be a worthwhile project to get mediators more involved in solving very large problems. To understand these ideas more fully, I’m probably going to have to read Cloke’s latest book.