Conflict Resolution|International|Mediation|systems design

In March, Virginia is for [ADR] Lovers

Two interesting conferences will take place in Virginia during the month of March — one focusing on investor-state dispute prevention and the other on a variety of challenges and opportunities faced by Virginia mediators.

On March 29, 2010, a symposium will be held at Washington and Lee University School of Law, in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  The topic is International Investment and ADR: Preventing and Managing Investment Treaty Conflict

The joint symposium aims to bring together academics, governments, practitioners and investors to discuss international investment agreements and ADR.  The hope is to use the symposium as an opportunity to generate ideas and explore good practices for managing investment treaty conflict in order to facilitate investment and create sustainable dispute resolution systems.

The leaders of the symposium have maintained an invitation-only blog to generate ideas for the event itself, and it has attracted robust contributions from a variety of participants, all operated under the Chatham House Rule

ICSID has promulgated Rules of Procedure for Conciliation Proceedings for many years, addressing investor/state disputes, but they are admittedly flawed and have been very seldom invoked.  So a protocol for the businesslike resolution of such disputes as an alternative to the profoundly time-consuming and costly ICSID arbitration procedures is very much overdue.

The fascinating thing about this symposium, however, is that it is putting equal emphasis on dispute avoidance as on dispute resolution.  Some of the participants in the blog have made refreshingly clear that mechanisms to increase communication of changed political and economic conditions, or other means by which investors and state representatives can identify nascent issues and resolve them in their infancy, is just as important as formal mediation rules.

Moreover, it is acknowledged that such a capacity must be jointly designed and maintained by all the stakeholders in the project.  As one blogger put it, “If you build it, they will not come.”

This approach of joint commitment to early problem identification and solution is, of course, my mantra and I am ecstatic to find that such an illustrious group is giving it the weight it deserves.  Information on the March 29 symposium — which is open to the public — may be found here.

Meanwhile, in Richmond, the Virginia Mediation Network will be holding its Annual Spring Training Conference on March 7-8.  Among her many accomplishments — or perhaps in acknowledgemnt of them — the VMN is led by Geetha Ravindra, and the Keynote Speaker will be Kenneth Cloke, whose many achievements include co-founding Mediators Beyond Borders.  The programming includes ethics issues, as well as discussions of restorative justice; the “truth and reconciliation” process as applied to Greensboro, New Orleans and other locales; and the Ombuds role in organizational transformation.  Virginia mediators and others might be well advised to take a look and consider attending.

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