Counting Mediators: Key Trends In International Mediation

The International Mediation Institute (IMI) published the results of their 2016 International Mediation & ADR Survey this week.

The survey focused on collecting census data, as well as views on awareness of mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Over 800 participants completed the census survey, including users of mediation services, mediators, advisors, educators, students, providers and other stakeholders.

With very little statistical data available in this area, the results, according to IMI have been “particularly insightful and eye opening”.


The 813 respondents, from 67 countries, represent a significant sample of the mediation profession globally. The vast majority (73%) of respondents were over the age of 45 (and over a third of these were over the age of 60). The majority of respondents were male and over half of all respondents had a legal background, mainly coming from key parties in a meditation ie. users, advisors, and mediators.

A key difference to note in the census results is the representation of women in the field. In mediation, women are proportionately more represented making up 40% of the profession – this is a stark contrast to the arbitration world, where women make up around 14% (according to ICSID figures).

Regional views vary broadly throughout the survey, with a notable trend in optimism from Latin American and African respondents, compared to the more critical views of those in the North American and Asian regions.


According to the survey, approximately half of mediators are self-employed; and for the majority it is not their only job – 70% of mediators have an additional profession.

More women than men act solely as mediators, 18% and 12% respectively, the difference is more pronounced among those who solely mediate on a volunteer basis (17% female, 6% male).

It could be said that mediation is perhaps not as lucrative as arbitration, with over half of mediators earning less than the equivalent of USD 50,000 for performing mediation services only.

International mediation

The survey results show a strong disparity in perceptions of advisors and users when it comes to familiarity with mediation. Half of users stated they were familiar with mediation, while only 6% of advisors perceived them to be. This indicates not only a lack of communication, but also a need for reevaluation of the expectations and the processes on offer.

Advisors are marginally more familiar with mediation (40%) than users see them to be (30%). What is particularly interesting here is that advisors in fact recommend mediation a lot more frequently, 70% of the time, while users believe they only do so in 47% of cases.

In regards to choosing mediators, the informal method of ‘asking peers’ remains the predominant way to do this in just over half of cases. As mediation becomes more popular as a career path and as a form of dispute resolution, the selection of mediators is likely to become more complex – raising the issue of regulation and certification of mediators.

Users both in business and individual contexts overwhelmingly valued the presence of a competent professional to aid in resolving disputes. The other stakeholders generally also ranked this option higher in other contexts (i.e. communities, government, NGOs).

Mediation practices

Three quarters of users ranked knowledge of “qualifications and experience of a mediator” as the most important factor concerning their work in conflict management. All other stakeholders on the other hand, focus on the views of the users as being key.

The survey suggests that time does not play the decisive role in the mediation processes, with success rates being more important. However, as with many dispute resolution processes, enforcement is a crucial factor – 53% of respondents (56% of users) stated that enforcement of mediation settlements was of extreme importance.

A growing field

The vast majority of respondents believe users would have some interest in web-based/automated tools for mediation over the next 5 years, “but expressed uniform hesitation at the success these tools would have to resolve conflicts over face-to-face interactions”.

The survey also highlights the perceived lack of familiarity with mediation among legislators and the executive branches of governments. However, as one might expect, things are better in the judiciary, 41% of respondents note that the judicial branch recommends mediation most or some of the time.

There is also a positive trend towards mediation among young people, with educators perceiving a large student interest in mediation (53%), although students state there are few courses offered on the subject (54%). The growing demand for such mediation training is echoed by 63% of providers who predict an increasing interest in mediation training courses over the next five years.

Survey’s like these are valuable in predicting the evolution of trends in the area but also evaluating what is already available to users and providers alike.The findings indicate an overall shift in dispute resolution, however more statistical data is needed to track these developments.

Written by Natasha Mellersh.

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