Resolving conflict through mediation

The use of mediation as a method of dispute resolution has a long history in Kazakhstan stretching back to the days when the Kazakhs were a nomadic people. UNDP has been working with the Government of Kazakhstan to help revive mediation as a means of solving problems and provide a viable alternative to going to court.

In years gone by, the nomadic Kazakh tribes followed the concept of adat, the set of local and traditional laws and customs recognised by the clans. A respected member of the community, often the clan leader, acted as a mediator between conflicting parties. This mediator was known as a biy and their authority was derived from knowledge of the adat system. The biy called upon this knowledge to settle disagreements in a fair manner.

In 2011 the Government of Kazakhstan adopted a law on mediation. After the law came into force, UNDP and the Supreme Court launched a joint project to promote mediation as a legal institution. Outreach events involving the media, local government and the judicial and law-enforcement agencies were conducted across Kazakhstan. A range of teaching materials was designed and developed to train professional and non-professional mediators and a cohort of mediation coaches.

“Mediation of non-criminal cases is sometimes the best method. I recall a case when mediation helped a separated couple resolve their issues and actually get back together. Had they gone to the court, they could have ended up divorced,” says Saltanat Khaidarova, a mediator in Pavlodar, a trainee of the UNDP project.

Mediation can be differentiated from other dispute resolution methods such as reconciliation as it attempts to discern the real, underlying cause of the conflict and not just resolve its consequences. Mediation is an attempt to get to the heart of the problem.

“We have created an institutional framework for further development of mediation. The project has helped to ensure efficient on-site interaction of judges and mediators. Overall, this has resulted in opportunities for the more extensive use of alternative methods of resolving disputes,” says UNDP Project Manager Gulmira Tulesbayeva.

Kazakhstan has signed up to international human rights conventions and is serious about its responsibility to comply with the terms of these conventions. UNDP has been supporting Kazakhstan’s efforts by providing technical assistance in implementing the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the framework of the UN Human Rights Council.

UPR gives recommendations on areas where the legal system could be improved. As a result of UPR, the President of Kazakhstan signed a new Civil Procedure Code that enables the use of an array of alternative methods of dispute resolution, including mediation. Mediation provides access to justice for all, or, in other words, facilitates the rule of law, which UNDP has consistently supported.

Ultimately, public awareness about the advantages of the use of mediation depends on the work of the mediators themselves. The more success stories there are about mediation, the more people will know about this method. This will help consolidate the positive image of mediators in society.