From the outset, we were both excited to attend the annual UIA (Union Internationale des Avocats) Mediation Centres conference. The opportunity to meet fellow mediators from around the world and to take part in workshops on the most pressing topics in our field was attraction enough. The icing on the cake was that it was also in the beautiful country of Luxembourg with a packed events schedule. After facing the trials and tribulations of airport baggage restrictions (Andreia) and managing to accidentally navigate the route to the conference venue through a construction site (Andrew), we arrived at the conference venue for the official welcome and registration in the evening of Thursday 21 April. With drinks flowing, the President of the Luxembourg Bar Association gave the most energetic Welcome Address I have ever been witness too. Aside from outlining how mediation is growing in importance in Luxembourg, we also ended up jumping at various points for the group photograph. Thankfully on the fourth group jump a picture was taken that was deemed satisfactory! Unbeknown to us, this set the tone of the evening and later entire conference: Fun, interesting and thoroughly different.
The next day the Forum was opened by the charismatic Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel. Speaking to a room of 100 individuals from 30 countries, Prime Minister Bettel spoke of the beneficial role that mediation can play in business, law and in society while also recalling humorous anecdotes about how he had informally tried to use mediation skills at various points in his political career, first as Mayor of Luxembourg and later as a Government Minister. Following this address, panel discussions were held by leading conflict resolvers on various topics which included confidentiality in mediation, using mediation in labour law disputes, in the construction industry, and the complexity of dynamics in family business disputes. To encourage mutual learning, attendees were also asked to provide updates from their centres and countries. Working in French and English, these updates provided a wealth of information as to how mediation is developing throughout the world and how the benefits of mediation are truly globalised (we offered comment on the success of CEDR’s various healthcare initiatives which, it turned out, complemented similar schemes beginning their operations in several European countries not least in Luxembourg).
The conference was one of the most enjoyable we have ever attended not least because of the professionally diverse and multicultural participants, but because, just like mediation, the organising committee (Fabienne Van der Vleugel and Dr Jan Keyser) set a positive tone, maintained a firm but sensitive control of the process, whilst skilfully maintaining good relations with all participants. We look forward to the next conference and hope that everyone who attended this year will return for the 23rd World Forum of Mediation Centres.