By Daniel Foo on behalf of the organisers of the Conference
This year’s iteration of the Peacemakers Conference marked the event’s 10th anniversary – a worthy cause for celebration! Taking place from 17 to 19 June 2019, the Conference sought to teach 13 to 16 year olds how to resolve conflicts amicably in a workshop cum competition format.
This year, we were delighted to host participants from Commonwealth Secondary School, Evergreen Secondary School, Raffles Girls’ School, Hougang Secondary School, Jurong West Secondary School, St. Margaret’s Secondary School and Yishun Town Secondary School.
Learning about Mediation as a Mode of Peacemaking
Over the course of the Conference, the participants were exposed to mediation as a mode of amicable conflict management. Our lead trainers, Mr Mark Lim and Ms Madeleine Poh, trained them in the foundational principles of mediation, the process of peer mediation and elements of collaborative problem solving. Our trainers also focused on the skills involved in managing emotions, active listening and reframing. By the end of the workshops, the participants exhibited a keen understanding of what interests were, and how they were important for parties in conflict to generate sustainable options for resolving their disputes.
Just like in previous years, the participants spent the last afternoon of the Conference on a field trip to the Supreme Court of Singapore. They learned about the history of Singapore’s judiciary and legal system at the Supreme Court Heritage Gallery and had an interactive experience learning about court proceedings from the perspective of different persons involved in a court proceeding at the Learning Court.
Practising Mediation in Everyday Peacemaking
The participants got to put what they learned into practice through a series of role play scenarios. Over the course of the Conference, they were given hypothetical disputes that could reasonably occur between students in secondary school, and took turns to role play as parties and mediators in these disputes. This was a chance for them not only to exhibit their hidden acting ability, but also to practise their newly acquired mediation skills – including asking questions, managing emotions and encouraging brainstorming for solutions to problems.
After four gruelling rounds of competition, two teams emerged as the highest scoring participants: St. Margaret’s Secondary School and Raffles Girls’ School. The two teams competed in a final round at the NUS Law Bukit Timah Campus, where Ankita Alevoor Bhat (RGS), Tay Ee Shuen Megan (RGS), Annika Naomi Ee Rui En (SMSS) and Bathar Nisha Barvin (SMSS) mediated a dramatic and emotionally-charged hypothetical dispute. The finals were judged by CEO of Strategic Moves Pte Ltd, Mr Viswa Sadasivan; Deputy Executive Director of the Singapore Mediation Centre, Ms Sabiha Shiraz; and CEO of Sage, Mr Aloysius Goh.
Both teams put up remarkable performances – showcasing in particular their ability to ask effective questions. The judges commended both teams for their ability to stay neutral and refrain from suggesting options. The judges also raised the importance of ensuring that both parties feel safe to discuss freely in the negotiation, and that they reach a settlement that both are comfortable with. In the end, the team from RGS was awarded champion for their impressive ability to stay calm and ask effective questions quickly yet sensitively. Besides the prizes sponsored by Singapore Mediation Centre and Singapore International Mediation Institute, both finalists were awarded finely crafted ORIENT watches, kindly sponsored by BIG Time SG.
Additionally, five participants were recognised for their overall attitude and performance throughout the Conference: Hoo Ping Zhi from Yishun Town Secondary School, Malabanan Ace Brendan Malones from Hougang Secondary School, Koya Kavyanjali Sai from Jurong West Secondary School, Wong Ke Ning Clarisse from Commonwealth Secondary School and Ooi Jia Xi from Evergreen Secondary School.
Promoting Mediation as a… Flying Cow… with Braces?
Participants also got the opportunity to get their creative juices by inventing visual metaphors for what mediation is to them. This year saw what could be the most creative submissions. Participants likened mediation to a wire, a microscope, a lighthouse, a rainbow, and even a life form.
After each group’s presentation on their metaphors, it was decided that the top two metaphors were “Mediation is like Braces” and – probably the most imaginative metaphor to have ever featured in the history of the Peacemakers Conference – “Mediation is like a Flying Cow”. They explained that mediation is like braces because the process can be painful, but it can also bring parties closer and more aligned with each other. Mediation is also like a flying cow – with each of its four stomachs representing each stage of the mediation process. The cow’s behavioural features also symbolise the principles of mediation, while its wings represent the possibility of reaching a solution.
The organisers would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to the many people that made the Peacemakers Conference 2019 such a great success. First and foremost, we would like to thank the Singapore International Mediation Institute, the Singapore Mediation Centre, the Community Mediation Centre, the NUS Collaborative Dispute Resolution Club, and BIG Time SG for supporting the Conference. Without them, the Conference would not have been the success that it was.
We would also like to thank all the judges who volunteered their precious time to invest in the participants’ mediation training. The judges’ dedication, patience, and wisdom are greatly appreciated, both by the organisers as well as the participants.
Next, we would like to express our special thanks to St. Margaret’s Secondary School for graciously hosting the Conference, and especially to Mrs Foo Kar Hiang for her help with coordinating the event. We would like to thank the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Law for hosting the finals. We would also like to thank all the trainers and facilitators, who worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the Conference.
Finally, we would like to thank the participants for their enthusiasm and willingness to learn. They have impressed us with their ability, creativity and potential to be peacemakers in their respective spheres of influence. As the Managing Director of Peacemakers, Mr Sean Lim, said in his closing remarks: our world is filled with strife, and sometimes it can seem overwhelming. But if we can just make a difference where we are – to our families, our friends and our communities – we are already making a step in the right direction.
As Singapore’s leading peer mediation experts, Peacemakers has an extensive track record of managing and delivering conflict resolution training for youth at both local and international levels. If you would like to train your youth to better manage conflict, let us know how we can help via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.