It’s a mediation convention that issues of ‘fault’ are ideally avoided as the parties seek to move forward to constructive solutions or renegotiated understandings. However, the word appears in a very different guise in recent public discourse: the idea of detecting and addressing social “fault lines” appears in a range of public and academic statements. I first came across it in a scoping document produced by a national security body in Singapore, seeking to commission research on the ‘faint signals’ of those ‘fault lines’ that may appear between the ethnic communities here.
There were and are two principal concerns: one is to foster dialogue between those ethnic communities; the other is, through that dialogue, to foster social resilience. And those goals are clearly linked to security, both in the conventional sense and in the wider human security sense.
Resilience also appears as one of the objectives of the National Security Co-Ordination Centre: “Security rests on three pillars: the government, the people and the nation as a whole. By strengthening the coordination and integration of government agencies into a cohesive network, and encouraging the bonds of unity among the people, Singapore will become a nation that is holistically resilient.”
The idea of fault lines also appears in a May Day speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: “Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today called on Singaporeans to stay united, but cautioned them that there were potential ‘fault lines’ that could divide them as the economy worsens. He said the divide could occur if there were strains in relations between Singaporeans and non-citizens, the more successful and less successful, and between the different races and religions.”
I can see I’m going to come back to this issue on two grounds: one is a further exploration of the ‘fault lines’ aspect of diversity; the other is the role of dialogue-based processes, including mediation, as a response to this and as a resource in developing social resilience. This is, I suppose, a kind of capacity building enterprise.
On the second point – the role of mediation – I am tempted to draw a link between this ‘social resilience’ role of mediation and the emerging practice of “médiation sociale” in France: here mediation has a role in addressing, or assisting with confidence and capacity building, especially in diverse and divided urban environments; it’s an extension of the dispute resolution function of mediation . . . . even so far as for some authors to refer to mediation as as aspect of social ordering:
“Le développement de la médiation dans tous les champs de la vie sociale, de la famille au quartier en passant par l’entreprise, ne peut être uniquement présenté comme une simple alternative à la justice ; il préfigure l’émergence d’un nouveau mode de régulation sociale.”
In that context, and close to the concerns about fault lines and the potential of social dialogue to build trust, resilience etc, is the concern about security (and “insecurity in the social body”) and the prevention or reduction of violence:
One perhaps ironic but important development for mediation here, though the potential and use of dialogue is well-established, is the role of mediation as a public resource, as means of assisting with the promotion (in the French context as much as the Singaporean one) of “public tranquillity” – but its promotion less through the conventional tools of law and order but through the resources of engagement, dialogue, conversation, capacity building etc.