This paper examines the relationship between the concept of neutrality in community mediation and the inherently partisan nature of politics. Mediation theory often highlights the central importance of mediator neutrality in mediation practice and the authors examine the interplay between these two fields through an analysis of a donor-supported community mediation programme in the Central and Western Terai, the belt of lowland plains in the south of Nepal. This paper tries to understand why, in areas where politician’s role in dispute settlement is considered highly biased, neutrality in mediation can still be an option for these politicians. This paper argues that, despite clear reasons for mediators to act in a biased way, there are also incentives for them to act neutrally. These incentives stem primarily from political concerns as related to authority and standing in the community. In a context where both disputants and politicians ‘shop’ between different dispute settlement mechanisms, this paper finds that these incentives influence where these groups choose to adjudicate cases. In this wider dispute settlement context, where politicians have incentives to be neutral in mediation, but partisan in other dispute settlement settings, there is a danger that while the ‘internal’ neutrality of community mediation might be upheld, this goes at the detriment of neutrality in justice delivery as a whole.
Suykens, B.; Stein, D. Neutrality, Party Politics and Community Mediation in the Central and West Terai, Nepal. Justice and Security Research Programme, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), London, UK (2014) 24 pp. [JSRP Paper 12]