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How Did Mediation Get to Where It Is Today

Mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution has evolved over time and, fortunately for professional mediators, has become increasingly popular and widely accepted! It has gone through a lot during its evolution. Following are some key developments that have shaped the evolution of mediation.


Ancient civilizations. Yes, the use of mediation can be traced back to ancient civilizations where disputes were resolved through negotiations and mediations between parties. In ancient Greece, prominent figures such as Socrates and Plato advocated for the use of mediation to settle conflicts. A council of mediators was established in Athens to resolve disputes between citizens.


In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh often acted as a mediator between conflicting parties. The goddess Ma’at was believed to embody the principles of truth, justice and balance, and her priests acted as mediators in legal disputes.


Mediation was an important part of ancient Chinese culture, as well. The Confucian philosophy emphasized the importance of harmony and relationships, and mediation was seen as a way to restore harmony between conflicting parties. The ancient Chinese legal system also used mediation extensively to settle disputes. Even in the Americas, Native American tribes had a tradition of using mediation to settle disputes. The Iroquois Confederacy, for example, had a system of clan mothers who acted as mediators in disputes between members of different clans.


In the early 20th century, mediation started to gain popularity in the United States as a way to resolve labor disputes. This led to the establishment of the first formal mediation programs in the country. During the 1960s and 1970s, mediation became increasingly popular in the field of family law, particularly in the resolution of divorce cases. One of the earliest programs was the Neighborhood Justice Center, which was established in Los Angeles in 1979. The center provided mediation services for disputes between neighbors and aimed to prevent the escalation of conflicts that could lead to violence or involvement with the legal system. In the 1980s and 1990s, mediation started to gain acceptance in other areas of law, including commercial disputes, environmental disputes, and disputes in the workplace. One notable program was the Community Dispute Resolution Program, established in Columbus, Ohio in 1982. This program was part of a larger movement to develop court-connected mediation programs and aimed to provide mediation services for disputes that would otherwise be handled through small claims court. In 1993, the American Bar Association established a section on dispute resolution, which helped to promote the use of mediation and other ADR (alternative dispute resolution) methods in the legal system. This rise of ADR in the late 20th and going on into the early 21st century helped to further establish mediation as a preferred method of resolving disputes.


The constantly increasing use of technology has also played a role in the evolution of mediation. With the growth of online mediation platforms, it has become easier and more convenient for parties to participate in mediations from anywhere in the world. The onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 led to a marked increase in the use of social media, phones and remote platforms such as Zoom, which further developed to provide mediation services during what has been labeled as the “new normal.”


Today, mediation is widely recognized as an effective and efficient way to resolve disputes and is used in a wide range of legal, commercial, and personal disagreements.

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