At St Petersburg University, experts from Russia, Austria, Kazakhstan, Spain, Italy, China, Turkey and other countries discussed: the scope of application of mediation technologies; the place of mediation in the reform of control and supervision activities; the specific features of notarisation of mediation agreements; and the choice of effective methods for resolving disputes with large numbers of participants.

Government representatives of authorities, conflict experts, lawyers, sociologists, professional mediators, doctors, business representatives, attorneys, and notaries took part in the Second International Conference ‘Mediation: Modernity, Innovation, and Technology’. Opening the conference, Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods of St Petersburg University, spoke about the approaches used in this area at the University: ‘We have been studying the problems of conflictology, and mediation for a long time. In 2017, the University established the Mediation Centre, which consolidated the efforts of professionals from different fields and research and the practical potential of St Petersburg University. The Centre provided an opportunity to address not only scientific but also applied issues in the field of alternative dispute resolution.’

The Mediation Centre of St Petersburg University was established for the resolution of disputes and conflicts. The team at the Centre includes highly qualified mediators and experts from St Petersburg University. They have extensive scientific and practical experience in the peaceful settlement of disputes of various degrees of complexity. The fields range from interpersonal relations to the environment and international trade.

The moderator of the conference, Evgeniia Vaskova, Director of the Mediation Centre of St Petersburg University, noted the importance of a synergetic approach in resolving complex disputes. She said that today the Centre is increasingly dealing with conflicts that involve elements of public concern.

We see the search for a balance between the interests of business and government, business and society, as well as disputes in intersectoral interaction. We see that the use of mediation in such cases is effective and can lead to effective outcomes.

Evgeniia Vaskova, Moderator of the Conference, Director of the Mediation Centre of St Petersburg University

Until 2010, the Russian Federation had no statutory provisions for the full application of mediation procedure. Meditation is currently regulated by the Federal Law ‘On alternative dispute resolution with the participation of a mediator (mediation procedure)’. In 2019, the law was further extended to include the use of mediation in administrative disputes and disputes arising from other public legal relations. A mediation agreement after notarisation was given the force of an enforcement document. The participants stressed that such legislative changes encourage authorities to think about the use of negotiation technologies. Currently, it is the federal tax and anti-monopoly services that regulate the use of negotiation technologies in the course of supervision and control.

The experts emphasised that mediation has proved to be an effective way of out-of-court, court and post-court dispute resolution in many countries. This means that if properly applied, it can be a convenient and quick mechanism for dispute resolution both for individuals and legal entities. In addition, if applied effectively, it can reduce the workload of the judicial system throughout the whole country, said the President of the Federal Notarial Chamber Konstantin Korsik. The amendment gave executive power to notarised mediation agreements. He said that, after it came into force, notaries became actively involved in the system of dispute resolution through mediation.

Of course, the involvement of a notary does not exclude the key role of a mediator, conflict expert or peacemaker. Being a professional, independent and qualified lawyer, the notary works in partnership with a mediator who knows the nuances of sociology and human psychology. Such collaboration can increase the effectiveness of mediation as a whole.

Konstantin Korsik, President of the Federal Notarial Chamber

As an example of successful cooperation between specialists from the two areas, Konstantin Korsik mentioned alimony disputes that are quite successfully resolved in pre-trial proceedings.

Vadim Chubarov, Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, noted that mediation is also effective in disputes involving entrepreneurs: ‘In many cases, mediation produces results that cannot be achieved through traditional mechanisms.’ Vadim Chubarov believes that mediation technologies could help businesses cope with the consequences of the pandemic. For example, disputes related to the suspension of contracts caused by force majeure can be settled through pre-trial resolution.

Experts also mentioned supervision and control, financial markets and healthcare as potential areas for the development of mediation. Experts noted that in the healthcare sector, conflicts began to arise with the transition to market relations. The situation has worsened in recent years due to: reduced access to medical care; higher costs for services; a shortage of specialists; and an increasing number of lawsuits against doctors. Doctors who have become case defendants are leaving the profession, creating an even greater shortage of qualified personnel. In addition, there is a noticeable shortage of nursing staff in Russia. According to doctors, 80% of the success of a surgical intervention is postoperative care. All these reasons give rise to tension, and complex conflicts. They are complex because of the intensity of emotions, the number of participants, and the very fact that human health and life are at stake. ‘Doctors are economically vulnerable and the financial performance of the medical organisation is important to them. At the same time, patients are also vulnerable because they do not know a lot about the treatment process. Conflicts are often born out of an inability to communicate and build a dialogue, as well as due to professional fatigue and burnout,’ said Igor Akulin, Professor at St Petersburg University and Chairman of the Board of the St Petersburg Association of Medical Law. He noted that it can be difficult for a doctor to resolve a conflict himself. It is therefore important to let a clinical psychologist, mediator and conflict expert into the conflict in order to give the parties an opportunity to resolve the situation out of court in the shortest possible time.

The main barrier to widespread mediation is the absence or lack of information about the procedure among residents, public and municipal officials. Conflict experts, lawyers, and sociologists believe that it is necessary to: popularise mediation in our country; provide ongoing training for specialists; develop professional institutions; and facilitate the access of citizens to mediation services. Since mediation and mediation technology are universal procedures, mediation can be used in conflicts between two people, in the family, in disputes with a public element, and in disputes with a large number of participants, authorities and businesses. Mediation is not a formalised legal procedure, which means that it can be flexible and highly effective.