Peter Woodrow

 

Partner and Program Manager, CDR Associates

Topics: dispute resolution systems design, cultural frames, trust building

Interviewed by Julian Portilla — 2003


Listen to Full Interview

Listen/Read Selected Interview Segments on the Following Topics

Q: Can you give me a brief overview of your work?

A: Well, partly I'll be talking about CDR and partly about my own work, because they're generally the same. But, CDR, unlike a lot of conflict resolution firms out there, really does a broad range of things. We're more generalists and less specialists, although there are some areas where we have a good deal of experience so we can say that we have some specialties in those areas, although we try as individuals to remain pretty much generalists. So the scope of the work that I do covers really three main areas. One is what we generally call the organizational and workplace setting, so any issues that come up in organizations, whether they're corporations, universities, non-profit organizations, or government agencies. It's looking at things that happen within those organizations. So typical grievances, EEO(?) complaints, even some sexual harassment issues. A lot of training of managers in fundamental conflict resolution skills, and other intra-organizational squabbles. It can be headquarters-field, it can be department A-department B, it can be labor management, although we don't do the classical contract negotiations.

Occasionally we do, but it's not been a major part of our work, partly because there are so many labor management folks out there it's not an area that we can really compete in. That is a specialty area. So, sometimes it's Inter-organizational, but still it's about organizational relationships, it's not in the public policy arena. For instance, I'm doing a situation assessment next week between a US federal agency and one of the groups that they relate to, but it's not about a public policy issue, it's about their relationship. So that's really an organizational issue or inter-organizational issue, it's not about water deliveries or whatever. It's how they work together, communicate, perceptions of each other, you know, competing mandates for the two organizations, those kinds of things. So that's one whole area of work. The second area, domestically in the United States, is the environmental public policy arena, and here we're talking about multiple parties, complex cases. By and large, it's some form of environmental dispute, although we also get involved in education, transportation, even some municipal and state finance issues and budgeting, and health care. It could relate to any area of public policy, but there haven't been as many applications in those areas as there have been in the environmental arena, so most of our work in the public policy arena has been environmental.

There have been some cases that are exceptions to that, but it's not as mature in those other areas, so there's not as much work there. So typically, public policy work can be doing situation assessments, fully convened, mediation, or facilitation of a collaborative process or a dispute resolution process, depending on how they define it. It could be a strategic planning effort among multiple stakeholders or it could be resolving litigation between multiple stakeholders. One case we're doing, which I call "water fight," is between a federal agency and a water district. Long-term, bad relationship, multiple lawsuits filed against each other on both sides, and the purpose of the mediation is to try to resolve those legal issues and to improve the relationship, but that wasn't their main interest.

Q: In situations where there's a federal agency and an organization, some sort of governing organization, I'm assuming there is for this water example you just gave, it seems like there are a lot of technical, regulatory things going on. You also mentioned the term relationship, which may sound surprising to someone who thinks of bureaucracies and agencies as faceless. How does a relationship enter into something like that?

A: Well, first of all, in the technical area, it's important when working on something like this water fight. I understand western water law in broad terms. I don't have to be a legal expert on that. Luckily on this particular case my co-mediator is an environmental lawyer who understands western water law up and down. So that's very helpful on the case, although he hasn't necessarily had to bring that legal expertise directly into it. It's more like when we're strategizing and I ask him a dumb question about water law he can answer me. But in the mediation sessions with the clients, there are water lawyers all around the table, and we as a mediation team should not try to interpret water law in front of everybody else. So the technical expertise is, you know, we need to know enough to be able to be credible as mediators, but we don't have to be experts.

Usually there are more than enough experts floating around on those issues. In terms of relationships, really the relationship between any two organizations, whether it's a federal agency, a university, what have you, comes down to interpersonal interactions. So in this case it's the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that builds the dams and water infrastructures throughout the West, and then they've got a local office that relates to this particular water district, and they have to work together to do water releases and water storage plans and a plan for irrigation every year, and they have to work very closely together to do that.

There's personnel on one side and personnel on the other, and they sit down around tables and they develop plans and they have to agree and everything has to work. So how they communicate, how they treat each other, the degree of respect and acknowledgement that goes back and forth, the degree to which there was consultation on important matters, all of that comes into that relationship, and that's what we're talking about when we're talking about relationship. You know, it's not about whether they're best friends or anything like that. It's whether they have a good working relationship, which usually involves communication, trust, respect, all the same things that people need with their wives and spouses, but in an organizational, working context. So that does come into it, and with the particular relationship I was talking about earlier where all the lawsuits were involved between the Bureau of Reclamation and this water district, we had been recommending that even if they resolve the legal issues, they need to have some work directly on their relationship, which isn't what they're used to.

They're not used to having to face that, but they realize that their relationship is bad, so they've been sort of saying yeah, well, maybe we'll do that. But we sort of have to still sell them on taking that directly. But we'll see. Maybe they'll do it and maybe they won't. {C}

So that's the second area of our work and the third is the international arena, and that could be organizational, or it could be environmental. Sometimes we even still do training in family mediation in Australia, New Zealand, other usually English-speaking cultures where the mediation model has some relevance. But more likely we're doing inter-ethnic or environmental work internationally, inter-group conflict, inter-ethnic conflict. So, we can talk maybe a little bit later about East Timor and the work that I've been doing most recently out there.

Q: Is there a moment in your work you found particularly inspiring?

A: Well it's always great to get an agreement after a long struggle. I worked on a process for three years with a group of stakeholders regarding air quality issues throughout the Southwest. It was an eleven-state region. A bunch of Native American tribes were engaged, environmentalists, four federal agencies, EPA, representatives of the states, their departments of environmental quality and usually their air bureau, industry representatives. So it was a real broad group of stakeholders, and we had actually 80 people in our process, which was quite unwieldy, but we then divided people up into much more workable subcommittees, and they came out with a 90-page list of recommendations on preserving and improving air quality in the Southwest. And it was great to have that product come out and to have a celebration dinner and all that kind of stuff. That kind of thing is I don't know if that inspiring, but you certainly have a sense of accomplishment.

Q: Three years, you must have felt like you were in a mire sometimes, being in the middle of that. I mean, what does it feel like at month eighteen?

A: If it had been about a dispute, it would have felt much more that way, but it was about regulatory policy, so it didn't feel quite that way. I mean, with this water fight I was talking about between the Bureau of Reclamation and the water district, already two months in it feels like it's in a mire. So, you know, the time frame is a lot different when you're mediating a dispute, per se, as opposed to a longer term planning process, where you're trying to build consensus around potential regulations or air quality protection measures or whatever it is. So you're still in a consensus building mode, but you're not in a dispute resolution mode. It has a different feel to it and usually the time frame is quite different as well.

Q: What general lessons have you learned over the years in your work?

A: That would be really hard to articulate in any brief manner. But one of the things that's nice about working in CDR is that half of our work is intervention work: facilitation, mediation, consulting; and the other half is training. So we're always having to take the lessons we're learning from our intervention practice and incorporate them into training. So, if I've learned lessons they're all incorporated into our training program, so you'll just have to come and take our training programs and (laughs) see what lessons I've learned. Yeah, it would be really hard to say. It would have to be a much more specific question in a particular context to say, well, what did you learn out of that particular project or process.

Q: Okay, well then let's contextualize a little bit.

Talk to me about East Timor a little bit.

A: Okay, well the context of East Timor is that it was a Portuguese colony up until 1975, when the Portuguese left pretty precipitously. The Indonesians invaded and took it over, claiming that it was, from their point of view, legitimately a part of Indonesia. And they have a legal argument that they put forth about that, that the East Timorese don't buy, but they allege that. There really was a military occupation for 25 years from '75 to 1999 when there was a plebiscite. After the Suharto regime folded the successor regime agreed to hold a referendum in East Timor regarding the question of independence. That was I think August or September of '99 and the vote went strongly for independence, and those forces within East Timor who were allied with Indonesia, either militarily or for whatever other reasons, then withdrew. The military then trashed the country on the way out, destroyed 70 percent of the buildings, gutted government buildings, including the Land and Property Directorate, which is the equivalent of the county clerk's office in Colorado where you register a deed. So it's a place where property records are kept, deeds and land titles are registered there. So they trashed that facility, although a copy of some of it was on microfilm and had been sent to Java to a national archive in Indonesia, but the Indonesians have refused to give a copy of that record to East Timor. Or it's part of a negotiation process between the two, trying to settle a bunch of issues.

Meanwhile, the staff of the Land and Property Directorate, the ones who remained behind who were East Timorese, then sifted through the rubble and got some records and found some things, but it's a really incomplete set of documents. So, you've got a very complex situation with regard to land ownership in East Timor. You've got folks that have Portuguese titles, which are pre-'75 titles. You've got people that have Indonesian titles, which might be for land that was expropriated by Indonesia. Say somebody left in '75, and went into exile because they were associating with the independence movement in East Timor. So Indonesia might have just expropriated that. Let's say we're talking about a house in the capital, in Dili.

They might have just taken it over. And then, you know, whatever Indonesian official might have sold it to someone else and the new person was given an Indonesian title, and then they might have sold it to a third person and a fourth person, so you might have three or four owners over a 25-year period, all based on an expropriation by Indonesia, which would be viewed by East Timor as illegal. And then you might have an exile coming back, who left in '75, and he says where's my house, and here it is and somebody's living in it, and he says well I have this piece of paper from Indonesia that says I own this place. And the guy from pre-'75 says, but it's my family's house, we lived here for 50 years. So, who's house is it? Those are the kinds of conflicts that are coming up.

Also inheritance, you know, people who died at various times during this whole chaotic period, and then who gets the inheritance, and does anybody have any record or are there any wills, or things that show how property should be transferred. Then, aside from the Portuguese and Indonesian titles, the vast majority of the land in East Timor is not owned personally, but by tribe. And then individual families are granted use rights on those tribal lands through an informal process of the tribal leadership saying, well, you and your family, you can have these, you know, five hectares, and that's yours to plant. And, you know, you get the results of your labor on that land, but you don't own it, it's still held by the tribe. Those tribal lands are under a set of laws, which are called Adat laws.

Adat is the traditional legal system, which varies from area to area throughout Indonesia, and even can vary from valley to valley, because you have different ethnic groups, and so different interpretations of those traditional legal practices. So, you've got three different legal processes, one of which is incredibly varied, the Adat system, because it is culturally variable and locally determined. You know, it's completely topsy-turvey if you look across those areas, but usually within a particular area everybody is clear about who is a decision maker and how the decisions are made. It sounds very simple. However, there's political overlay in the question of which families have land. Were they in a militia, funded and given arms by Indonesia, and then did they shoot their neighbors during the '99 chaos? Did they flee as refugees to West Timor for a period of time? Is the tribal decision maker more allied with the liberation forces, and therefore if a family comes back and claims the land, will the decision maker have a bias in determining whether that family gets to use the land that they may have used for hundreds of years? The recent political events create some difficulty. And, does it even make sense for that family to come back, because they might be shunned or attacked or whatever by their neighbors for events that happened. So these things are very complicated.

Q: It sounds like the standards by which you determine whose property it is are completely un-firm.

A: Variable, right. And, I can't remember what the numbers are, but very few lawyers in East Timor are left, some who were in exile and came back and a few that were lawyers under the Indonesian system that are remaining. But there are no judges and no courts. The buildings were destroyed and most of the judges are gone. All of the other judges during the Indonesian period were Indonesian, and it was all mostly military law anyway. It was military occupation, not civilian rule. So there's essentially no court system right now in East Timor. So that's the challenge that we were working with the East Timorese on.

Q: When you say we, you mean the people at CDR?

A: Yes, at CDR.

Q: CDR gets a call from ?

A: It's a complicated way of entr e. After '99 the UN set up an administration that lasted until Spring, 2002. So for three years it really was a UN administration in East Timor. One of the UN advisors to the Land and Property Directorate, in the Ministry of Justice, a general, was a Canadian who Chris had worked with in post-war Guatemala on setting up some systems there.

So he said, oh, I know exactly who can help us here. So he knew Chris and e-mailed him and then they had an e-mail correspondence back and forth. The Canadian government agreed to fund some work on setting up a mediation system for land and property disputes. And then it went back and forth, and various UN advisors came and went, and three advisors later things had settled down and the new East Timorese administration had taken over, but the Canadians were still willing to pay for this mediation process. So the present UN advisor, who's an Ecuadorian who works closely with the Land and Property Directorate, thought that this was a really good idea and really supported it, and worked with the director of the Land and Property Directorate to set this up. So eventually this all happened. Chris went out in December and did a basic mediation training program with the guys. It turned out that they didn't really know what their mediation system was going to look like, so Chris actually spent the first couple of days doing a dispute resolution system design.

Q: Right, so when you get a call, they say, we want to develop a mediation system to determine who owns what property and how to settle ?

A: Resolving disputed claims.

Q: Okay, and that was the UN idea before the CDR, and they said we know who should do it, it's CDR.

A: Right.

Q: But you didn't come in and say, okay, you guys need a mediation structure here?

A: No. And by the time we came in last December, we thought they would have resolved a lot of questions of who the mediators were going to be, how they were going to work at a community level, how cases were going to be received, what kind of cases were in, what kind of cases would not be done this way. We thought all that would be in place, but no, it wasn't. So there was more of a design question, not just training individual mediators, but those larger systems designs questions had to be resolved as well. So Chris spent the first couple days of what was supposed to be a five-day mediation workshop working on dispute systems design. And what they determined was that rather than have the mediators all come from the Land and Property Directorate, the Directorate's staff mediators would work with local leaders to co-mediate cases. Of course then there were going to be these other political questions about whether the local leader is trusted. So you had to do some discernment about which local guys to train up as mediators and which not to. And I don't know how they're going to do that, but that's up to them, essentially.

Q: That's not CDR's choice to decide?

A: No. No, no, no. I mean it's not our choice even to designate who the mediators are going to be. That's up to the Land and Property Directorate. They're the ones who recruited the folks into the mediation training program. And the initial group was all their staff, and those staff members will be mediating cases, but they'll be doing it as co-mediators with local leaders. So we had a mediation program in December, we followed that up with a multi-party mediation program in February. We were looking where the dispute was not just between two people, but might involve other folks, neighbors, multiple folks that are claiming something, multiple family members that are claiming inheritance, where it might involve some tribal representatives as well as individual families. So, we were looking at a whole range of different ways that you might have multiple parties involved. And then in March we went back, and I went on the March trip to do a training of trainers, because they need to train all these local folks as mediators, not just go out and assume they'll be able to become mediators, but to have a training program for that. So we were training people to go out and train other people.

There's going to be a fourth training. It's still undetermined exactly what that's going to cover. It could be an advanced mediation program, but there are several other topics that could be a part of that. This is a case where what we're really talking about is institutional development. It's not the same as going out and mediating a single dispute. We're trying to help them set up a system for handling multiple disputes in the context of the society, which is trying to recover from fundamental trauma and destruction, and they're really building a government, and it involves infrastructure, from the ground up.

In this situation a mediation process is going to be faster and cheaper than trying to get a judicial system up and running. They may ultimately need some kind of an appeals process from mediation to a land court or something like that. In the next couple years they may be able to set that up, but meanwhile they have to do something to resolve these disputes, and lacking lawyers and courts and judges, which is going to be expensive to set up, this mediation process seems to make a lot of sense for their context.

Q: It seems that if there were a justice system, standards could be established by which to determine what property belonged to whom. There's sort of a tradeoff between individual settlements of cases versus large legal-rights-based understanding of who owns what.

A: Well, everything still has to be done within the context of laws. They've passed a land ownership law that determines who can own land. For instance, that law says foreigners can't own property in East Timor, and then they define what a foreigner is or who is East Timorese. That law also provides for mediation of disputes as one way to handle disputes, but there'll be subsequent laws that will enshrine in law this process of mediation with an appeal to some kind of a land court. And those laws are in draft at this point. There's another law that provides a process for people making claims, and they're in the process of developing the regulations for that, what the form looks like and where you can file it and what language it needs to be in and how many copies and what kind of documentation you need to provide along with your claim and those kind of things. All that stuff is in development around the land thing.

So there is a legal framework, but if you use the power-rights-interest framework to think about this, for the last couple years there's been a power framework because there hasn't been any legal framework, so people are just sort of taking stuff and doing what they want because they can, or forcing other people off of land using the point of a gun or whatever they have to do. Or local leaders who have pretty unquestioned power at the local level may just say, now this family's in and that family's out. Just, bam! And that's where some of these legal claims are going to come from, where a local tribal leader has made a determination and another family decided that that wasn't fair, that there was some kind of bias in that determination. So now the country is in the process of establishing a rights-based framework, which includes all these laws, but that legal framework will include within it the interest-based provision, i.e. mediation using an interest-based approach to resolving claims, so that eventually those nested paradigms will come together in the process.

Q: When you hear about mediation you hear about win-win situations, you know, expand the pie; it's not a zero sum situation. It sounds like a lot of these situations are zero sum-you get the property, you don't get the property. How does that work?

A: That could be, but during that first training program, Chris got them to tell him multiple stories, so has like 25 different cases, he has some sort of little capsule summaries of those cases and what the issues were and all that. And some of them he subsequently wrote up into simulations for the following training. And in a lot of the cases it's just not as cut and dry as that. Let's say somebody acquired a piece of land ten years ago and planted banana trees, and so there's a crop from those banana trees. And perhaps he's also put on a new roof because the old roof was falling down, and has done some other improvements to the property. Somebody else comes in and has a pretty clear-cut claim to that property, you know, the guy who'd been there for ten years maybe with an Indonesian title, one of these transfers, is ultimately determined to be illegal. And it was through no fault of his own. I mean, he thought he was buying something in good faith and so he didn't violate law, but he doesn't have a legal to claim to the property.

This other landowner is coming back and then the other question is what do you do? Well, does the guy get payment for the improvements he made to the property? Do you find some way for him to get income from the bananas for X number of years? Say for the next five years he gets the banana crops and he has access to come in and work on that. Or maybe he gets all of it for the first two years and then the third year the other landowner gets a quarter of the income and then the fourth and fifth year they split it in half and then the sixth year the landowner, the guy that's going to be the full landowner, gets the full value. So you have ways to sort of figure those things out, and then you would resolve the roof, you know, the owner would need to maybe over time pay back the value of the roof, or they use bananas as payment, I don't know. But there are ways to sort of figure that kind of thing out.

The other deal is that is there's some way to do land swaps with other properties that the government has at its disposal, or in the countryside the tribal leaders have, so that it isn't just a cut and dry, well, you're out, you're in. And then does that just leave you homeless or is there a way to meet your needs for a home, or some way to do the timing of the transfer that makes it less burdensome, or you know, provide for some government resources for subsidy to people who've been displaced due to lands claims or something like that, which might be a small amount of money, but enough to sort of get somebody started on finding another location. So it isn't always as completely win and lose as it might be. You find ways to accommodate folks. And some people who are sitting in those properties know full well that they don't have a legal leg to stand on. Maybe during the chaos they sort of said, well, I need a house. Mine was burned, this one's whole, I'm moving in. And then they know they didn't have legal title. So we find some way to resolve that.

Q: Some people have argued that the impartial-neutral model of mediation where the person who's sitting there and facilitating the conversation doesn't know anything about the parties, doesn't really know the parties, and is just sort of trying to lead an objective conversation, that that doesn't necessarily work in some situations in Latin America.

A: Absolutely. And this goes to the cross-cultural deal. So, in East Timor we're not giving them a North American model and saying this is the way you mediate. We're giving them principles, you know, some fundamental principles of mediation and some fundamental skills, but then they've got to find their own way that works for their context. We've already noticed in watching them role-play that they're much more evaluative and directive in their mediation style than we would be here. And they're going to be co-mediating with village leaders, who intimately know the parties at one level or another who also will understand the cultural context. Because the Land and Property Directive folks are going to be urban-educated government employees, it's difficult for them to understand the cultural context among 33 language groups on this tiny island, some of which are mutually unintelligible languages. I mean, the language difficulties there are really hard because there's no dominant language.

A guy from the Land and Property Directive that grew up in X city, and is working on a case in the countryside with a tribe that he barely knows the name of, he has to depend on working with the local leadership in figuring that thing out. Because a local guy will know, you know, whether that family has legitimately been there for years and years, and those kinds of things. They'll also be doing some investigation. The land and property folks have learned a lot about going out and just walking around the land and talking to the neighbors and figuring out who was here when and what happened over the last 25 years, and was there a change in '75 and was there another change when the Indonesians left and what happened in between, and who's been occupying the land since '99, and who gave them permission to be there. Just all kinds of pulling together the facts, which in our context a mediator doesn't usually do. I mean, we might do a conflict assessment, but that's usually talking with the parties. In this case the mediator is also a fact finder.

Q: A researcher.

A: Yeah. They're doing some basic research on a case to get a sense of what's going on, and that means that then they're a source of information on the case, which means it's a different mediation model.

Q: And that's not something that you all suggested?

A: No, no, it's based on their situation and what they need to be doing, and what the role of the role of the Land and Property Directorate staff are. Now eventually it may get so that one set of staff people is doing the research and providing essentially a file to the mediator, and another staff person is then playing the role of mediator so that they're not mixing those roles. But, you know, they're understaffed and overworked, so maybe for a while everybody will be doing everything.

We previously worked in Indonesia on environmental dispute resolution and helping to develop a system there, but more closely associated with this land and property dispute resolution system was work we did in Sri Lanka. Chris did it, I didn't do it. It was a community mediation system. This is in contrast to the North American model of a single mediator or even paired mediators, where the mediators are neutral and unknown to the parties, and it's a confidential process, behind closed doors, pretty linear in it's approach and logical, and the mediator is playing more of a facilitative role.

In Sri Lanka it's a panel of mediators, usually three, all respected authority figures from the village, maybe a monk, a businessman, and a school teacher, some combination like that. Mediation is held in open court, usually the courtyard of the headman's home, you know a big, open space, and anybody who has a case comes on a particular day that's been announced. So the entire village is there watching because it's the best show in town, you have kids and cattle and chickens and everything running in and out, and the mediation is handled right there in front of everybody because if it was done behind closed doors, it would be seen as, you know, somebody's cutting a deal behind closed doors and there's corruption and all that.

Q: Somebody's getting screwed if they're doing it behind closed doors.

A: Somebody's getting screwed. And the mediators are moral authorities. I mean a Buddhist monk is sitting there as a mediator. So he may turn to one of the parties and say, look, you know, you're going to get points in heaven if you restore community harmony here, so why don't you kiss and make up with your neighbor here that you've been having this dispute with. And it even brings in the interests of the community in harmony and reestablishing community unity, and that kind of thing. As the mediator he's bringing that in, and using this sort of moral suasion with the parties as a lever in getting an agreement. So it's a really different model, and they're not neutral. They're known, and the process is not confidential, it's in front of everybody. And the notion of a party is even different, because it may be that you and your neighbor had this dispute, but another neighbor may have an interest in it. Or your family might have an interest, or maybe you're the 15-year-old son who neglectfully let the bull from your family destroy the garden of this family.

Well, as a 15-year-old kid, you would be nobody, it would be your dad who'd be representing you, it wouldn't even be you. Or let's say it's a civil thing where the son of one family somehow besmirches the reputation of a daughter in another. Well the son and the daughter aren't even going to be in the room. It's going to be the elders of the family. So, in our system, the son and the daughter would be there. The family would be present, but, you know, the lawyers would represent them and the kids might testify and all that. But in this system it's that extended family, and the notion of who the party is would be much more holistic and involve a lot of different folks. The mediators might even call on neighbors to ask what they know about it, you know, bring other people in rather than just the parties.

Q: In that situation would the mediators ultimately decide as a panel what the outcome is going to be, or is it still a participant-generated settlement?

A: Well, Chris would of course know a lot more about this than I do, because he's the one who did the case and I've just heard him talk about it enough that I sort of know the stories. But, as I understand it, the mediators still would get the parties to come up with a solution, at least in the first instance. But they might use much more persuasion and pressure than our mediation style would do.

But if the parties are stuck, then one of the mediators might say look, this is what I think would be fair, what do you think. Still giving it to the parties to say whether they agree or not, and ultimately the parties have to agree or there's no deal. And if there's no deal, which happens, they would go back to the court system and wait ten years and get the case resolved. Which is why Sri Lanka did this, because they had a ten-year wait for a civil case. The court system was so backed up.

Q: So is that a model that was that spawned more from Chris going into Sri Lanka, and saying this is how we do it in our country. What do you guys want to do based on this suggestion. Or did that exist?

A: Two things. When we went in they had already tried to do community mediation and it had fallen flat. It hadn't worked. So Chris went with the Sri Lankans and did an evaluation of what was wrong with the previous model. And partly it was that they had imported ideas about confidentiality and things. They did their mediation behind closed doors with single mediators, etc., which just wasn't working. So they did an adaptation or they did a change of the previous model. Whether you told the mediators they should be neutral or not, it just wasn't in their mental model or their cultural model of how someone in this role should act. So some of it grew spontaneously out of the way that people did things. Others were by design, like having it in open session, having authoritative mediators, rather than sort of non-entity, unknown mediators, and what we call social context mediators also, people who were not from outside but from the local social context. Those were all by design. And that was Chris working with the Sri Lankan colleagues to say what's going to work here? What hasn't worked before? How should we design this? And there was some experimentation to see, you know, how things work in different places. They now have something like 6,000 mediators and it's amazing. And they're now talking about extending this into the Tamil areas that have been war zones for the past few years.

Q: We're talking about East Timor, and something that occurred to me while you were talking is that in Sri Lanka, when Chris went in there, there was a very clear example of what went wrong, what flopped, right? So you had this model to be like, well maybe we need to improve this section or this section or this section. East Timor, you went in and I'm sure you'll correct my interpretation, but it sounded like you went in there, presented this model, and then they adapted it to whatever they were doing. It wasn't necessarily that you were searching for, you know, East Timorese appropriateness and sort of trying to come up with this new model.

A: Well, yes and no. I mean, when I said Chris did the dispute systems design work the first two days with them, essentially that meant Chris was posing a series of questions to them. Based on our understanding and having done a lot of dispute systems work elsewhere, including the Sri Lankan example, but also in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in South Africa, and in various places in the United States. So we sort of know the questions to ask. We don't know the answers. They've got to come up with the answers. So the process was that Chris would maybe present an overall conceptual frame for dispute system, and then pose a series of questions, and they would then be responding and working in small groups, and running off and thinking with each other, and then coming back and sharing in the full group. It's a much more interactive, participatory process. So Chris wasn't presenting an idealized model, because every mediation process has a similar set of processes and variables. How they look in each setting is going to be somewhat different. But, for instance, you have to have some way to get parties to the table.

So what is the intake process? Well, that's going to look really different from Case A to Case B. But still, there has to be some way to develop a case. You have to have some way to decide whether that case is appropriate for mediation. Well, in some settings the criteria for selection may be different from another case, but there's still criteria for selection. Who the mediator is may be quite different in each case, but it's a mediator. So that recruitment and identification of appropriate people is still a mechanism that has to be fulfilled, but the answer to it in each case will be different. You see how the questions are the same, but then how they decide the answer is what varies.

So Chris didn't present an idealized model of what mediation should look like. What he did was pose a series of questions about how they want it to work. Then, in order to get their thinking going, he might also say, well in Sri Lanka they do it this way, in the Philippines they do it that way, and in our neighborhood mediation thing in the US we do it this way. So which model is going to be most appropriate for you. Just to get them to think about the different alternatives.

Q: Like, I'm more comfortable with this idea than I am with that idea, so that gives you sort of an approach.

A: Is it single mediator, co-mediator, you know, public, private, confidential? Those all have to be determined, and in each case it would have to be asked. And you can give them a range of possibilities, and they can say, yeah, I think your Example B is probably closer to what would work here. Because they know their culture, they know their context. Now sometimes it's hard to tell, so then you just have to say, well, let's try it this way, but give us some flexibility and we'll do a pilot and then we'll adapt in various cases. Now, the other piece of this is that what we're doing for East Timor is just land and property disputes. They still don't have courts and judges and things for all the small crimes and other civil claims. So we've been talking with them about extending this to a broader set of disputes. And there we're thinking that it's going to be important to understand much more clearly what the cultural norms are around dispute resolving. And there's already a group in East Timor that's doing some, essentially, field research on the different models of dispute resolution and looking across these different ethnic groups.

There are thirteen districts within East Timor, so they're going district by district and looking even at what the variation is there because we've got 33 ethnic groups in 13 districts in a very small country. But that research will be very important for figuring out, is there a single model that we could propose for community dispute resolution, or does it need to be custom-designed absolutely for every community, which would be a real headache, or can you provide sort of a generalized model and then allow for some variability and flexibility in how the model is implemented depending on which area you're in. And I think that's more likely what will happen. You say, well, generally it's going to look like this. You could vary who the mediator is or you could vary whether it's confidential or not or you could do different things. And I also think that for urban conflicts, in towns and cities, you could get away with a single model because it's going to be multiple different language groups and cultures, and for people who come from the countryside, the normal dispute resolution processes aren't operating in the city.

One of the biggest problems is that in the village everybody knows you go to the village headman or chief, or whatever they're called, and you get the thing resolved. Or there's a council of elders, or, you know, they have some sort of process for doing that. Those all fall apart when people move to the city. It's partly why cities are dysfunctional, is because the sort of traditional cultural norms don't apply. So, my guess is that for East Timor even, for urban settings, you could posit a single model. It still has to be culturally appropriate, generally, but you wouldn't have to do all this adaptation to local conditions in the same way.

Q: Were you surprised by anything in East Timor, or have you been surprised, or are you being surprised?

A: I was surprised at the degree to which things have bounced back. There's a lot of commerce going on. A lot of things have been rebuilt already. I mean, there are sections of town that are still, you know, rows and rows of houses without roofs and things like that, but I would say 80 percent of the town looks pretty normal for a recovering third world country. Having been in Cambodia and East Timor, which are the two main places I've been that have been devastated like that, it seemed to be in fairly good shape. And there's a lot of energy and goodwill by people in really getting things going. Really great people. I really enjoyed working with the folks there.

Q: Were you surprised by anything in the process design?

A: Well, Chris did that. So by the time I got there that piece had already been done. I'm a little worried about this thing of co-mediation with local leaders, because the quality of the local leaders can vary so greatly.

Q: Yeah, that probably has a fairly strong power dynamic influence. If this guy's an enemy of the leader's family

A: Yeah, so if you had some way of excusing people from cases where they might have a direct interest then it might work. But then how do you substitute for that local knowledge in the process, in the mediation team. We may have to experiment with different ways of doing that.

Q: What is it like to go in there as the Americans, you know, like the experts? How do people react to you?

A: Well, it was even more complicated than that because our team had two Indonesians and two Americans. The woman from Indonesia had worked with Chris on the previous two programs, so she was quite well known to the group, but then we brought in her colleague, a male colleague. And he was apprehensive because of course the Indonesian men, the military, had been seen as the enemy. So he was a little bit apprehensive, but they were quite accepting of him as well. They recognized, you know, he's from an NGO, he's not a government person, never had anything to do with the military. So they were more sophisticated than that, they weren't going to hold it against him. Although there were some tense times when the Minister of Justice came for the closing ceremony, about whether the Indonesians would be included in the closing ceremony directly. There was a political difficulty there, and a language difficulty too, because the government officials speak Portuguese, but the young people have never been taught Portuguese because for 25 years it was Indonesia. They all speak Indonesian, and the government officials speak Portuguese because they're all these returned exiles. And so for official business it's like, which language do we use here? It's really hard. That was fascinating to watch.

Q: Is it hard being a fee for service institute of conflict resolution?

A: Yeah, it means that we're sort of under this constant pressure to make sure that we're getting the billable hours and the income we need in order to make the budget. So, particularly the international work is hard to get funded at the level that we need. Often those are what we call under-funded projects. Either the daily rate is not what we'd normally get for work in the states, or we don't get paid for travel days, so we're spending two and three days getting someplace, and two or three days getting back, and that isn't compensated in any way, and we're just paid for the days we're actually there, and that at not a great rate. So that really makes the international work much more difficult, and it's probably why only 25 percent of our revenues are from our international work. The balance is split pretty evenly between the environmental public policy and the organizational work. We would do more international work if we could get paid for it.

Q: Really, there's work out there to do, I mean, places to go?

A: Yeah, there are. And there are some times when we would love to do a piece of work and we just can't find ways to get it funded. We just don't have a big pot of money that we can just say, okay we'll fund this from X pile of money. But, we're also beginning to work with some of the larger international lending institutions and folks that have deeper pockets, so those kinds of things are more possible. But the work itself may not be as enjoyable.

Q: The international work?

A: No, when there's an international lending institution involved.

Q: Another set of goals involved ?

A: Yeah, you know, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and those things. It's not exactly always what we would most want to be doing. Sometimes it's fun and exciting and interesting, but not always.

Q: Why do you do this work?

A: Why do I do this work? Well, I've always wanted to be doing work like this, something like this. Right out of college I went to Vietnam to work with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker relief and development and conflict resolution organization. I knew from when I was a kid that I wanted to work internationally, I don't know why, I don't even remember. So, it was just exciting to get an overseas assignment right out of college and I've been hooked ever since.

Most of my work has been in Southeast Asia, but I've done a bunch of work in Africa. I haven't done anything in Latin America. But I'm a Quaker, so that provides sort of a value and religious base to the work, although I don't wear that on my sleeve, partly because I don't think it's appropriate in a professional setting to do that. But still it's the underlying motivation for me, doing this work, trying to make the world a better place in one way or another. You know, peace with justice, all that. But that's true, it's really a motivator for me, and people look at what I do and they're really envious that I have a job that pays well and that's an expression of my values.

Q: Yeah, those coincident interests are being fulfilled there. That's great. Well thanks, Peter.