Mediation Week is commemorated every year during the third week of October, and is an ideal time to reflect upon the impact that mediation and other peaceful dispute resolution processes can have, to bring peace and solace to individuals and families during difficult times.

In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic brought court systems and dispute resolution services around the world to a grinding halt. Like many others, providers of mediation and arbitration services were forced to rapidly adjust to new ways of working through online platforms to expand access to their services in a way that was previously unfamiliar to many.   

As Mawlana Hazar Imam had previously authorised the use of online technology for international mediations, the Ismaili International Conciliation and Arbitration Board (ICAB) was able to build on the foundations already established, to expand the use of online services. This helped the Jamat during a difficult time to resolve disputes promptly and efficiently within the ethics of our faith. ICAB adapted its flagship, rigorous in-person training course for newly appointed CAB members, as well as its continued professional development training programmes to an online platform. Some initial hesitation and uncertainty quickly dissipated, and the new vehicle proved to be an effective alternative for the members of the Jamat to resolve disputes.

Many people around the world adjusted to the ‘new normal,’ from working from home to educating children while schools were closed. For some members of our Jamat, changes in living arrangements, dealing with the loss of loved ones, and financial insecurities exacerbated stress and increased the potential for conflicts. With ICAB’s online mediation training programme, CAB members were prepared to respond swiftly to help members of the Jamat to resolve disputes in a safe and secure manner, while maintaining the foundation of mediation—confidentiality. Online technology allowed CABs to continue to provide this service without interruption.

The online training incorporated all of the critical principles of mediation, such as voluntariness, neutrality and impartiality of the mediator, and confidentiality, along with the robust component of ethical principles as guided by Hazar Imam. The CAB mediation process encourages individuals to resolve disputes with compassion, empathy, integrity, and dignity, while facilitating healing post-conflict, so parties can look to the future with hope and confidence.

Oftentimes, when parties are in conflict, they are unable to view their dispute from any perspective other than their own. CAB members assist parties to view a dispute not only through their own lens but from the lens of another person, even if they disagree. The ability to share and understand the feelings of another by imagining their situation, commonly referred to as empathy, is a critical element in conflict resolution.

In an address at Harvard University in 2015, Hazar Imam succinctly explained the importance of participating in a true dialogue with patience and a readiness to listen. In quoting the former Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, Hazar Imam said, “What is needed… is a readiness ‘to listen to your neighbour, even when you may not particularly like him.’ Is that message clear? You listen to people you don’t like!”

The pandemic has given us many silver linings. Despite our difficulties and hardships, online platforms have helped us to come closer together as one global community. Working together as brothers and sisters and practicing the ethics of our faith; of compassion, empathy, and dignity can allow us to manage our personal relationships with courage. We are a resilient community, and with Hazar Imam’s continued guidance, we can commit to strengthening our resolve to improve the quality of life of our community and society at large.