Wisdom and behaving ethically often overlap. But most often not always.
In a mediation, arbitration, facilitation or when having a transformative moment with a transgressing client, ethics can go out the window for the professional peace builder. This is because facilitators, mediators, arbitrators—peace builders all—are human.
There is the idea among some peace building professionals that advocacy, evaluation, design and decision-making are not integral to the role of a peace builder, and thus cannot be transformative acts. This idea underpins the much touted ethics of preserving neutrality and maintaining client self-determination.
Evaluation and transformation can happen together ethically between a client and a peace builder, but then what happens to identity, power and the deeper meaning and significance of the work of the peace building fields?
Bernard Mayer and many others have struggled with these questions in the field of mediation, but the real, scary questions lie far outside the field and relate directly to the underpinnings and assumptions about how to create conditions for peace making, or even peace keeping, and how to plot those points as destinations between two conflicting parties.
- Is it more, or less, ethical for the power struggles inherent in conflict engagement and conflict advocacy to occur between two parties, than it is for the immediate conflict to be resolved?
- Is it more, or less, ethical for clients to be allowed to engage in their personal struggles in a conflict scenario, while having a third party advocate in the room to represent the voices of those not represented by the dominant power structures at play?
- Is it more, or less, ethical to allow clients to manipulate the caucusing process, thereby placing third party neutrals in the unenviable position of being co-conspirators in lying, deceit, or other forms of deception that continue, rather than end, power struggles?
The average client involved in a workplace dispute, a divorce mediation, a church power struggle or another conflict/confrontation/difficulty scenario, may not know what is ethical or unethical based on some ancient Greek philosopher’s definition of how the world works.
They just want their world, in this moment, to work.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org