Considering the litigious disposition of today’s society, United States Attorney, Byung J. “BJay” Pak pointed to mediation as a means for reaching closure between opposing individuals. He said, “mediation is the process by which each party’s voice is heard, despite who may win or lose at the very end…It really comes down to balancing the interests of two people, looking for a compromise and likeness, and not divisive litigation.”

United States Attorney Pak of the Northern District of Georgia and Judge Susan Barwick of the Fulton County Superior Court were keynote speakers at the 2018 Mediators’ Forum, held at the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Decatur, Georgia. This event was organized by the Aga Khan Conciliation and Arbitration Board for the United States of America (CAB USA) and Kennesaw State University School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding, and Development, in commemoration of the American Bar Association’s Mediation Week. 

The Mediators’ Forum brought together professional and volunteer mediators, law enforcement officials, judges, lawyers, clergy, counselors, and other peacemakers. Participants spent the morning learning about innovations in mediation, and best practices in the field. Topics included cradle-to-grave conflict resolution services, opportunities for mediation inside and outside the court system, and how increasing rights can be paired with greater responsibilities during negotiations.

Judge Barwick commended CAB USA’s mediation model and asked members to teach those gathered “how to have a groundswell of community-based problem-solving.” In a true spirit of collaboration, she expressed that “the CAB model is the perfect dovetail for our court programs,” and extended an invitation to partner with Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution. She said, “We are here not only to offer you our resources, our assets, and our enthusiasm, but we are also here to take all that back with us. This is the wave we have to follow, and you (CAB USA) are the model that we need to plant in all our communities.”

Dr. Susan Raines, Associate Director of the School of Conflict Management, Peace Building, and Development at Kennesaw State University, served as a panelist at the event. She challenged the audience to educate their communities about mediation, as only with awareness will greater numbers of individuals be willing to consider mediation as an avenue for conflict resolution.

Dr. Raines pointed out that “mediation is really a low-risk process, especially at a community mediation center that is run by volunteer mediators. Other than time and emotional energy, there is really not much cost…Cases get dismissed in mediation because the parties just resolve it and don’t need it to be codified into judges' orders.”

Participants also took some time to embrace pluralism and work towards overcoming bias, thereby striving to serve as more equitable mediators. Rodney Mims-Cook, Founder and President of the National Monuments Foundation, was deeply touched by Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speech at the 2017 Inaugural Global Pluralism Award Ceremony in Ottawa, where he had remarked: 

“Some people make the mistake of thinking that pluralism requires them to dilute or de-emphasize their own distinctive identities. That’s not true. What it requires is to ensure that one’s individual identity is strong enough to engage confidently with those of other identities as we all walk together along a road to a better world.” 

Reflecting on these words, Mr. Mims-Cooks commented, “That quote says it all! That is what we are trying to strive for and what we are building.”

Through the discussions and the subsequent networking, participants uncovered support and resources in the world of mediations. The Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta, Leslie Anderson, noted that the forum was “a fantastic opportunity to learn about mediation in Atlanta and to develop some connections that I didn’t know existed. It has given me a hopeful view of what we can do with the larger community by making important bridges.”

In 1986, Mawlana Hazar Imam created CAB to serve as global dispute resolution system for the Jamat. Today, CAB is active in over 20 countries around the globe.Volunteer mediators provide pro bono mediations, with the goal of helping the parties find their own, fair solutions to their disputes.