THE ‘NEUTRAL’ MEDIATOR’S PERENNIAL DILEMMA: TO INTERVENE OR NOT TO INTERVENE?
AbstractThis article explores the vexed question of whether or not a mediator’s intervention in the power relations of the disputants should be considered a sign of the mediator’s departure from their neutral role in the process. It argues that such intervention should not be seen as automatically breaching the mediator’s ‘neutral’ role because neutrality and power can only be appreciated as situated rather than fixed terms. By thinking of neutrality and power in this more nuanced manner, their meaning shifts from being understood in an absolute or universal sense to being dependent upon the individual parties and circumstances of the dispute. Such a conceptualisation of neutrality, influenced by postmodernism, would also give rise to the possibility of multiple meanings and truths being ascribed to the state of being ‘neutral’. The result of this is to open up a space for the mediator to legitimately intervene in the process to avert or subvert what the mediator sees as a potentially unfair process for one or more of the parties without the mediator necessarily relinquishing their neutral status.
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