Opening Statements

Coming Soon: International Mediator Certification

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The International Mediation Institute is inching closer to its goal of establishing the first global mediator certification.

In September, the nonprofit officially ended a “consultation period,” during which it invited global feedback on what its certification should entail.

The IMI (, based in The Hague, was formed in April by the American Arbitration Association, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Netherlands Mediation Institute.

International mediation certification will provide assurances to corporations, courts and other users of mediation services that a mediator is “competent and also suitable to the case in question,” says London lawyer Michael Leathes, who serves as the IMI’s executive director. It can also ensure clients in parts of the world where mediation is less common, such as Latin America, South­east Asia and Africa, that a mediator has met certain standards, says Richard W. Naimark, the AAA’s senior VP and an IMI board member.

Leathes believes the IMI may be ready with certification requirements as early as the end of the year. Exactly what they will entail, however, he can’t yet say.

“Everything’s in play because otherwise someone from an Anglo-Saxon country will impose their notion of how this is supposed to be, and we thought that was the wrong way to approach it,” Leathes says.

But he does provide some hints: A law degree likely won’t be mandatory, but a certain amount of experience in a specific area will be. And there will probably be several certifications rather than just one.

The IMI board met recently to start making decisions based on the feedback it received during the consultation period. One thing it learned, says Leathes, was that not everyone thinks certification’s a good idea. Some say that the market should just be left to look after itself. Leathes counters this criticism by pointing out the voluntary nature of the certification. “This is not an attempt to impose regulation, and some people have misconstrued it as such.” He believes IMI certification “will stand alongside existing panel and court certifications that already exist in profusion in the United States and elsewhere.” And as it develops, he says, “the value of it will be appreciated over time as well”

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