IMI 7-Year Anniversary Review

The International Mediation Institute (IMI) began its life in early 2007. IMI was, and remains, unique. No other initiative has ever been undertaken, or even attempted, to forge mediation into a global profession by establishing worldwide, high level, practice and approval standards. The mission is nothing short of pioneering.

The American economist, Paul Zane Pilzer, observed that:  The early pioneers…were motivated by a sense that it was possible to create a better world than the conventional routes offered…Now the alternatives of yesterday have become the economic powerhouses of today and tomorrow.

IMI seeks to rid mediation of the “alternative” cloak that has restrained its growth over the past 30 years by enabling its practitioners and service providers to gain the understanding, acceptance and respect of users – worldwide – offering a true professional activity. Mediation is not an alternative, but a natural process to be used in resolving any conflict and at any time in the dispute cycle and deal making. This has been no easy task, because currently anyone can call themselves a mediator, and too many regularly do so. IMI has introduced a worldwide mediation standard that for the first time enables users to make informed decisions on mediator selection that are truly objective.

This Mission is so important to users, yet so challenging, that no other institution in the international mediation space relies entirely on donations from Patrons to implement its mission, refraining from competing in the marketplace for mediation services.

Fortunately, there have been many visionary thinkers that have combined their financial resources, and organizational and human skills to enable the IMI Mission to gain real traction. IMI originated as a user-driven public-interest initiative, voicing and meeting users needs. The Chair of the IMI Board has always been from a prominent Mediation User to emphasize this focus.

IMI has followed through on its Mission by creating international standards by which mediators are objectively credentialed; providing resources to users and others; establishing Inter-Cultural Competency Certification; and introducing Mediation Advocacy Competency Certification. These initiatives are just the beginning. During the coming years, IMI will extend these and other initiatives globally to regions primed for social and economic growth.

We, the Current and Past Chairs of IMI, hope this Anniversary Review will help everyone not fully familiar with the fundamentals of IMI to gain a strong sense of the journey so far, and be inspired to help drive the Mission forward in the future. These past 7 years have only been the start of an exciting and valuable journey…

Deborah Masucci Current Chair, formerly American International Group Inc., New York, NY

Ute Joas Quinn Chair 2011-2013, Hess Corporation, Houston, TX

Patrick Deane Chair 2010-2011, formerly Nestlé SA, Vevey, Switzerland

Michael McIlwrath Chair 2008-2010, General Electric Oil & Gas, Florence, Italy

Wolf von Kumberg Chair 2007-2008, Northrop Grumman Corporation, London, England

Download the review in PDF: IMI 7 Year Review published Jan 10 2014

7-Year Anniversary Review
2007-2014

The Origins of IMI

Vision without Action is a daydream; Action without Vision is a nightmare

Japanese Proverb

In 2006, leaders of four organisations, one in the US, one in Europe and two in Asia, discussed the longer term future of the dispute resolution field and what, if anything, they could do to improve its prospects.  They represented the Netherlands Mediation Institute (NMI), the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the American Arbitration Association’s International Centre for Dispute Resolution (AAA/ICDR).

The growth of international trade and investment had significantly enhanced the need for private dispute resolution services.  Until the 1980s, this mainly meant arbitration.  Modern arbitration tracks its origin to the 19th Century in Europe, then in the 20th Century, formalised with the US Federal Arbitration Act of 1925. AAA and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators were established and arbitration gradually matured to international acceptability.

Since it was first seriously proposed as an “alternative” to litigation and arbitration at the Pound Conference in St Paul, Minnesota in April 1976, mediation had been growing in recognition and acceptance, particularly in North America but also in several other countries, including the Netherlands and Singapore.  But, unlike arbitration, which had the benefit of user recognition and control in national statutes and international conventions, the growth of mediation has largely been fragmented and uncoordinated.  Hundreds of mediation provider organisations have come into existence, there were virtually no effective legislative controls on the delivery of mediation, and anyone could practice as a mediator.  In almost all jurisdictions, that remains the case to this day.

Why IMI?

The four organisations understood that with arbitration experiencing its international Golden Age, user concern had increased about the cost and time of arbitrating.  However, not all disputants want a judge or arbitrator to decide right or wrong, and few had the satisfaction of “winning” as their prime objective; most desire a quick and acceptable outcome, enabling them to move on.  This user drive to control their own outcomes, and reduce risk, through settlement negotiations is not always achievable.  Often people were the problem.  Assisted negotiation – with the help of a mediator – offers the opportunity of a mediator to reduce the adverse effect of tactical maneuvering and emotion – but it requires quality, experienced mediators as well as users who understand the value of mediation over traditional litigation and arbitration.  Mediation is a very different process from arbitration and litigation, because it is not an application of law but a negotiation process, but there is great reluctance on the part of many users to try mediation, mainly owing to a widespread lack of understanding of how and why it works.

The founding institutions agreed that quality and information were the keys to unlocking greater traction for mediation.  At the urging of Netherlands-based international mediator, Annette van Riemsdijk, it was agreed that the best vehicle for increasing quality perception and improving understanding about mediation was an independent, non-profit, non-service-provider, global foundation designed to inspire user confidence in mediators and mediation.  That foundation needed to attract support from all competing players in the dispute resolution market worldwide and all other stakeholders – users (disputants), advocates (mainly law firms), adjudicators (judges and arbitrators), educators (academics and mediation skills trainers) and policy makers (mainly governments).  Its mission would be to set high transparent mediation quality standards and to explain and promote the value of resolving disputes using mediation.  No such entity existed in 2006.

For these public benefit reasons, it was resolved to form the International Mediation Institute (IMI) and provide initial funding for it to achieve these goals on a global scale.

How to make IMI Reality

Once the first Executive Director (Michael Leathes) and the Operations Manager (Irena Vanenkova) had been identified, a meeting was convened in early 2007 to discuss incorporation, funding and an operational plan.  It was agreed to register IMI as a foundation (“stichting”) in The Hague, that AAA/ICDR, SMC and SIAC would fund IMI for its initial few years through grants, and that IMI would develop an international mediator competency credentialing scheme supported by NMI, which offered the expertise it had developed in creating NMI Certification of mediators in the Netherlands – the only truly national credentialing scheme for mediators in the world at that time.

IMI was incorporated under Dutch Law in The Hague on March 23, 2007.  Provision was made in the Articles of Association for an Advisory Council as well as a Board of Directors.  The first executive director agreed to serve in a capacity pro bono, in order to contain costs.  It was also agreed that, in due course, an Independent Standards Commission would be convened comprising thought leaders in mediation drawn from all stakeholder groups, worldwide.

A week after IMI was incorporated, the European Parliament passed a Legislative Resolution on what was then the draft EU Mediation Directive which, among other amendments to the Directive, inserted a new Article 4 urging EU Member States to introduce effective quality control mechanisms on the provision of mediation services and to develop certification systems in the mediation field.  The Legislative Resolution also called on Member States to improve the level of objective public information about mediation.  This reassured the founders that quality and information were the correct components of the IMI mission.

It was also agreed that transparency and diversity should underpin the IMI competency scheme, preferably involving a way to make user feedback on the competency, skills and other characteristics of mediators openly available for the benefit of future users.

What IMI would deliver

Vision and Mission

The first task of IMI was to determine its Vision and Mission.  The Vision and Mission statements of IMI passed through several iterations, finally settling upon:

Vision:Professional Mediation Worldwide: Promoting Consensus & Access to Justice

Mission: IMI will

  • Set and achieve high mediation standards
  • Convene stakeholders and parties
  • Promote understanding and adoption of mediation
  • Disseminate skills for parties, counsel and mediators

Web Portal

The next priority was to establish the IMI web portal, as it was decided at the outset that this would be the main communication medium.  The web portal was initially designed by then Operations Manager Irena Vanenkova and constructed by Tribiq, an Internet Service Provider (ISP).  The web portal went live on April 30, 2007.  Tribiq remains the ISP of IMI and has continually improved the portal, with the help of Irena, who became Executive Director in 2008 and Emma Ewart, who succeeded as Operations Manager.

Establishing High Mediation Practice Standards

Simultaneously, IMI began to consult with leading users, mediators and service providers to gain an insight into their thinking on both quality and information to help IMI devise its operating plan.  No attempt had previously been made to establish worldwide quality standards in mediation, but the issue was starting to be debated in dispute resolution circles.  The NMI Certification scheme was gaining international recognition, and at the time mediator practice standards were being drafted in Australia by a Government-funded agency, the National ADR Advisory Council (NADRAC).  This activity began to be noticed by leading international corporate users, such as General Electric, Northrop Grumman and Nestlé, and some service providers, such as the founding institutions of IMI but also others.

The initial consultation enabled IMI to prepare a paper in July 2007 proposing a system for certifying international competency standards for mediators.  This system envisaged setting high, experience-based standards (similar to the NMI Certification Standards, but unlike the draft Australian system which envisaged the establishment of basic standards).

In September 2007, IMI held its first Board Meeting, in Zeist, the Netherlands attended by representatives of each of the founding institutions, at which the proposed credentialing scheme was reviewed, refined and approved.

Tools

IMI set itself a task to provide useful tools that could be presented on its web portal to encourage understanding and use of mediation by those less accustomed to the process.

Promotion

Because most mediation service providers understandably use their promotional budgets mainly to promote their own services, there was no real professional platform that users and others could visit for independent objective guidance.  IMI therefore resolved to address this deficiency through thought leadership and a variety of mechanisms to make mediation less mysterious and more comprehensible, and to focus especially on users (disputants).  If users, and their advisers, could come to understand mediation better, they would become less hesitant to use the process, and the growth rate of mediation would start to increase.

Location

The Hague was chosen as the seat of IMI for its standing as the international city of peace, justice and reconciliation, and the location in the Peace Palace of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  Moreover the City of The Hague was encouraging international NGOs like IMI to establish themselves in the city.

A leading international mediator, Leslie Mooyaart (formerly General Counsel of KLM, now Vice President Legal at APM Terminals, a division of Maersk), who had been instrumental in the formation of IMI, offered IMI a temporary address at his office location in The Hague.  However, it was agreed to apply as soon as possible to the Municipality of The Hague to be allocated a permanent physical office space in one of the City-owned buildings reserved for international NGOs.  In 2008, the Municipality of The Hague identified a fully-serviced office to accommodate IMI in the Bertha von Suttner Building at 70 Laan van Meerdervoort, close to the Peace Palace, which the Municipality reserves for approved NGOs at subsidised rents.  In addition, the Municipality graciously donated €45k to IMI over three years to help it establish in The Hague.  IMI continues to hold this office.

Charitable Status

GE had been a supporter of IMI from the outset, and IMI was invited to apply for a grant from the GE Foundation.  In order to qualify as an applicant, it was necessary for an independent assessment to be made that IMI, as a non-US registered foundation, would, if registered in the United States, qualify under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code as a tax-exempt non-profit organisation.  Following a review by Sullivan & Cromwell, that determination was made and submitted to the GE Foundation.

Meanwhile, IMI had applied to the Dutch Tax Service for a ruling that IMI to be accepted as an “Algemeen Nut Beogende Instellingen” (ANBI) (Institution Aimed at the Common Good), a status accorded to charitable, religious, humanistic, cultural and scientific institutions whose mission and operations are deemed by the Tax Service overwhelmingly to serve the public interest.  Donations to ANBI-registered entities are exempt from Dutch Gift Tax and donors to such entities may deduct grants made from taxable income.  IMI has been deemed to be ANBI-registered since January 2009.