The Ombudsman as Mediator

In recent years increasing use is being made of mediation as a means of dispute resolution.  The Office of the Ombudsman implements the mediation process in appropriate cases, similarly to other ombudsman institutions throughout the world.

The use of mediation in the handling of complaints is effective mainly where there is a continuing relationship between the parties, where several audited bodies are involved in the dispute, where the complaint concerns the behaviour of a civil servant, where the dispute has resulted from a misunderstanding or communication difficulties between the parties, and where the complainant requests acknowledgment of his grievance or an apology.

The mediation process is carried out by specially-trained employees of the Office of the Ombudsman and the sessions take place in the Ombudsman's reception offices throughout the country.  Recently the Office has started working with mediation centres and mediation units in the different audited bodies.  For example, following a mediation process in which the staff of a local authority were exposed to the advantages inherent in this kind of procedure, representatives of the local authority met with the mediation coordinator of the Office of the Ombudsman in order to learn about the process and develop an outline plan for cooperation with the Office in implementing the process.  The representatives of the local authority also asked the Office to help them build a program for the implementation of the mediation process when disputes arise between the authority and the residents.

In many cases mediation helps to get to the root of the dispute between the complainant and the public authority complained about, to find solutions which are satisfactory to all the parties and to improve their mutual relations.  Sometimes the mediation process generates creative solutions which could not otherwise have been reached.

At any stage of the mediation process a party may request its termination, in which case the complaint is returned to the regular investigation procedure.  This also happens in cases where the mediation process has failed, where the parties were unable to reach an understanding and agreement.

Experience teaches that in many cases the mediation process contributes to improved efficiency in the handling of complaints and a shortening of the investigation procedure, since the parties involved in the process are far more willing to implement the resolution reached through it.