Leading a National Mediation Movement
Since Partners-Hungary first introduced community-based mediation to the country in 1996, it has increasingly become an accepted and demanded service in Hungary, resulting in great interest among NGOs, academic institutions, and government entities. This influx, however, has lacked direction and communication among various initiatives, resulting in challenges to coordinate efforts at the national level.
In late 2000, Partners-Hungary took the lead in unifying the diverse mediation efforts and initiatives by establishing the National Mediation Association (NMA), a professional organization that aims to introduce and utilize mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism throughout Hungary. The NMA is officially registered with the national court system and has a growing membership of over 200, including social workers, sociologists, psychologists, and lawyers.
In establishing the NMA, Partners-Hungary facilitated working groups with Hungarian mediation associations to design the NMA's structure and establish goals and objectives for the Association. The NMA now has a sophisticated, decentralized structure, with several thematic Committees and regional information centers. Currently, Partners-Hungary is leading a cooperative planning process with NMA members to develop national mediation standards and a mediator certification program, design academic programs, and promote public policy.
A cornerstone of Partners-Hungary’s work with the NMA is the incorporation of mediating processes into public policies. Thus far, the NMA has participated in three significant areas of legislation:
- The Ministry of Health requested assistance in drafting a mediation act to resolve medical malpractice issues. NMA members are now listed as official mediators in health care disputes and hold formal consultative status, enabling them to educate new mediators.
- The NMA critiqued a proposal in the national attorney code that would have favored lawyers as mediators and unduly complicated the mediation process. This Act has not passed into law.
- The NMA consulted with the Ministry of Justice on the proposed general law T/5128, which provides for the inclusion of mediation in any dispute regulated by the civil code. Although the NMA supported the legislation, it called attention to problems with the implementation plan that would have centralized control over mediation standards and training within the national government. Instead, the NMA suggested that mediation be kept decentralized; that the neutrality of mediators and the confidentiality of the process be protected; that whenever possible actual disputants participate, rather than their representatives; that external experts be included; and that mediators maintain discretion over when to end an unsuccessful or ethically compromised mediation attempt, after which disputants can resort to the court system. This act is currently under review by Parliament.