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Building peace: Mediation a better way to resolve conflicts.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Chip Coker and David Gubernick

When last month's nationally televised "punch seen 'round the world" pushed Eugene and its Ducks into the spotlight, it brought an avalanche of articles, blogs and texting about sportsmanship, suspension and lessons to be learned.

Yet, there was one article in The Register-Guard that stood out from the rest. The story was on the unique Competition Not Conflict program within the University of Oregon School of Law's Conflict and Dispute Resolution program. One of the program's courses that was mentioned is entitled Mediating Sports Conflict.

So now we have mediation in the sports arena. And it couldn't be more timely!

What is this thing we call "mediation" that has been available to us for the past 30 years? It is a platform used to resolve differences, most often between two or more parties, conducted by an impartial third party. What makes mediation unique, and what sets it apart from arbitration or litigation, is that the disputing parties are empowered to determine the final agreement. Not an arbitrator. Not a judge. While it is a mediator who facilitates communication, it is the parties that reach their own agreement.

There are as many types of mediations as there are disputes. There's landlord-tenant mediation. Workplace mediation. Divorce mediation. Neighbor disputes. School disputes. Small claims mediation. Victim-offender mediation. And more! What is common among all of these types of mediations is that the parties get a chance to address their conflicts, to be heard by the other party, to listen to the other party's perspective and, hopefully, come to an agreement that satisfies both parties.

Hence, the parties are empowered to resolve their own conflicts. This results in a higher satisfaction rate for both parties in conflict compared to a judge or arbitrator rendering the decision.

Other benefits of the mediation process include a quicker resolution as compared to lengthy court schedules, a higher compliance rate in following through with the agreements, a more cost-effective means in resolving disputes, and an overall experience by both parties of having control of the outcome in resolving their conflict.

Most often, there is a greater respect and understanding of the other party's perspective by the end of the mediation.

Since 2005, Conflict Resolution Day has been celebrated internationally on the third Thursday of October. Inspired by the Association of Conflict Resolution in Washington, D.C., Conflict Resolution Day was created, in part, to "recognize the significant contributions of (peaceful) conflict resolvers."

In Eugene, Community Mediation Services has been serving Lane County as a nonprofit organization since 1982. For more than a quarter of a century, CMS has assisted parties in conflict by guiding them through an informal dialogue in which the parties create a win-win resolution with each other. CMS acts as a neutral third party to help solve problems between parents, neighbors, landlords and tenants, consumers and merchants, organizations, businesses, co-workers, housemates and others.

On Oct. 15, as we celebrate Conflict Resolution Day, CMS will be holding Peace By Piece, an event honoring contributions toward promoting a culture of peace in Lane County.

We are delighted that this year's recipients of the PeaceBuilder Award are Minalee Saks, executive director of Birth To Three; Joel Rothman, a student from North Eugene High School; and Peace Village, an organization that promotes the practice of nonviolence. They were chosen from many well-deserving nominees.

May this year's recipients of the PeaceBuilder Award be representatives for all the parties that have come to the mediation table over the years with the intent to resolve their conflicts with an understanding, openness, and an ability to listen. And may they be representatives for all who choose to mediate in the future.

Chip Coker is executive director of Community Mediation Services. David Gubernick is a member of the CMS board of directors. For more information about CMS and the upcoming Peace by Piece event, contact or call 541-344-5366.
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Title Annotation:Local Opinion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 14, 2009
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