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Bringing Stakeholders to the Table with Mediation

Bringing Stakeholders to the Table with Mediation


How is the Scottish Government responding to the climate and biodiversity crises? Abdul Rahim from the Centre for Good Relations highlights the Scottish Upland Deer Sector’s innovative approach, using mediation techniques to address potential conflicts. Amid crisis-induced tension, stakeholders often retreat, leading to more conflict. Through accountable dialogue, the Scottish Upland Deer Sector fostered collaboration, positive relations, and shared goals among the stakeholders. Could this technique be applied for resolving conflicts in other sectors?

Crisis is a word that is being frequently associated with climate and biodiversity and governments around the world are looking at how to respond to these crises. The Scottish Government views the twin climate change and biodiversity crises as an emergency and is developing policy to implement and encourage both structural and behavioural change1.  Some say the government is “not acting fast enough”, or “going far enough”; while others suggest the policy direction is “a knee jerk response” and “won’t work”.

Often our natural human reaction to a crisis is to run for cover, batten down the hatches and prepare to defend what is ours. Understandably we are seeing this response across multiple sectors when the climate and biodiversity crisis is being discussed: people are feeling the pressure to change and change quick, many of whom feel they have been working away quietly and often unsupported in the background for some time trying to find better ways to manage the natural resources they are custodians of. At best they feel their efforts aren’t being recognised, at worst they feel blamed.

Some are responding to these feelings by closing down, putting up defences, and isolating themselves to resist outside ‘interference’. People on the ground living in rural Scotland are faced with voices saying: “what you have been doing all your life hasn’t worked”; “you aren’t changing fast enough”; “you are stuck in your past traditions and it’s time to move on”; “you’ve had it too good for too long”. Some environmentalists have become so frustrated with the pace of change they are turning to direct action.

Conflict inevitably escalates. Stakeholders polarise and begin to attack each other. People fail to see the human in each other, and relationships break down, creating barriers to forward progress or building collective solutions, even though they may recognise that something needs to be done. All across Scotland we are hearing of different sectors dealing with increasing tension as they try to navigate their way to a more positive future. It’s likely that as the crisis intensifies, so will the level of conflict.

The Scottish Upland Deer Sector decided to respond differently…

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