At an international meeting it only makes sense that the people you would end up meeting may be across the border from you! However, it is not necessarily expected that your new acquaintance would be across a state border. But the latter was just the case on my ride home this evening from COP21.
After three months of learning about the art of negotiation, my VLS colleagues, Bonnie Smith and Rachel Stevens, and I had had the opportunity to meet Thomas Fuitak, author, professor and founding member of Mediators without Borders International (MBBI) on our short bus ride from Le Bourget, the home of COP21, to the train station bearing the same name. Fuitak was an animated personality who at first asked questions related to our traveling trio’s experiences at COP21. However, after entertaining our questions and cautious prodding, he revealed his status as an author, mediator and relevant party of the Paris draft agreement (Agreement).
Our short-term companion was not a household name but one of the generally anonymous that is well known in his circle of expertise!
Professor and mediator, Dr. Thomas Fiutak founded the Conflict and Change Center at the University of Minnesota and is currently a Senior Fellow in the Technological Leadership Institute, and lecturer in Conservation Biology. Our engaged companion has trained mediators in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa and as is noted founding member of Mediators Beyond Borders International or MBBI. According to his University biography, his work with MBBI has taken him to Zimbabwe, Denmark, Germany, Mexico, Haiti, Thailand, and Panama. He presently leads the MBBI Climate Change team, which has Observer status within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A past Executive Director of the International Association of Conflict Management and World Bank consultant, his first book Le Mediateur dans l’arene (The Mediator in the Arena) was published in France in 2009.
In his fifteen-minute companionship, Dr. Fiutak became an inspiration to us. His comments resonated with our threesome. He understood the insecurity of COP observation, the perspective of questioning the value of our naïve input and was quick to provide reassurance. His advice was that not everyone has the opportunity to observe or participate in a COP and therefore, we should personally acknowledge the value of our communications from just that simple a perspective. His commentary to us was amplified by his unpretentious comment on the potential insertion of language in the final Paris agreement that would provide ability for mediation to play a role in the continuous evaluation of the Paris Agreement. The latter is a significant incorporation for an anonymous bystander, who was a founding member of the voluntary organization of Mediators Beyond Borders International.