Although the peaceful dispute resolution procedure known as mediation has been used in Lithuania for a long time, it is only from January 1st, 2020 that it is mandatory in all family disputes (e.g. divorce). However, there is very little information found about violations of mediators' ethics in the public sphere and in official sources. This year, MRU Master's Degree graduate Indrė Korsakovienė, whose Master's thesis was recognized as the best in the field of social sciences in a competition organized by the Lithuanian Young Scientists Union, she investigated ethical violations of mediators. More about her thesis and the results in this article.
Korsakovienė, speaking about her law studies at MRU, said she was extremely happy with studies. "This is so far the only and unique opportunity in Lithuania to acquire an interdisciplinary specialty in the field of mediation. What I liked most about the studies was that it provided not only a legal basis in the field of alternative dispute resolution, but also the opportunity to acquire conflictology, dispute resolution, negotiations and psychological knowledge. Lectures and seminars are conducted by experts and practitioners with a wide range of experience in Lithuania. The studies were active, engaging and, in my opinion, of a high quality. I especially appreciate the opportunity provided by the University to participate in international mediation tournaments. It was an invaluable experience that allowed me to consolidate the acquired knowledge in practice and to get to know like-minded individuals from different countries of the world."
Mediation - Something That is Still Being Discovered in Lithuania
Korsakovienė said that mediation is one of the fastest growing methods of peaceful dispute resolution in the world. However, in Lithuania the profession of mediator is still new, emerging and striving to gain the trust of society and representatives of other professions. She emphasized that the norms of the Code of Ethics for Mediators are of the greatest importance in the activities of the mediator. It ensures that the mediation process does not deviate from its main principles: voluntariness, confidentiality, flexibility of the parties, impartiality and neutrality of the mediator. Greater responsibility of mediators would be ensured by more specific standards of their work. The researcher mentioned that in many countries there is legal regulation of mediation, which foresees the responsibility of mediators, but very little data is found in the public sphere. Little information too in official sources about the violations of ethics of mediators recorded in practice.
The goal of the Master's thesis was to find out whether the small number of complaints and lawsuits filed against mediators means that mediators almost never harm their clients and impeccably adhere to the ethical standards of mediators? Do the existing control mechanisms for the activity of mediators work properly and ensure the ethical activity of mediators? Also, are the mediator's complaint and complaint investigation processes effective and allow unethical mediators to be identified and sanctioned? Korsakovienė emphasized that the establishment of mediators' activity standards in legal acts and/or ethical codes and the determination of the mediator's responsibility for their violations are not a sufficient means to prevent the occurrence of mediators' ethical violations.
The researcher said that several essential elements are important to ensure the ethical activity of mediators:
- clear and sufficient qualification requirements for persons wishing to provide mediation services;
- it is necessary to monitor the activity of mediators, which includes not only the collection of statistical data on the services provided by mediators, but also the evaluation of mediator services (e.g., evaluation questionnaires filled out by persons who used mediation services and analysis of their results);
- an easy and clear appeal process for persons who have violated the norms governing mediation activities;
- high-quality, professional investigation of emerging ethical violations of mediators and publication of the results, conclusions and recommendations of the conducted investigations.
Further Career Entails Promotion of Mediation Services
Korsakovienė said that she will link her future with mediation not only in the practical but also in the academic field. She was delighted that after successfully completing her Master's Degree studies, she received an invitation from the University to present lectures. This year she started doctoral studies at the Mykolas Romeris University's School of Law. Her dissertation topic is about promoting the use of mediation. The researcher aims for her activities and plans in this area not only to contribute to the popularization of mediation, but also to achieve results including how to encourage conflicting parties to choose more often this method of dispute resolution. She plans to continue actively working in the Lithuanian Chamber of Mediators, in the Ethics Committee of the International Mediation Institute in order to develop international ethical standards for mediators. Also, works in the Laboratory of Mediation and Sustainable Conflict Resolution, where together with other experts in the field of mediation, conflicts, and dispute resolution, she carries out various mediation projects.
The project is financed by funds of the Ministry of Social Security and Labor of the Republic of Lithuania.