A Career Mediator. Member Spotlight: Alicia Kuin

Alicia Kuin has been a member of MBBI since 2011, was our very first member spotlight in 2014, and is the founder of the MBB Canada Regional Group. When Alicia was just 15 years old, a mediator came to her school and she received extensive training in peer mediation and has never looked back – she has spent nearly two decades in the field of mediation and dispute resolution.

In 2010, Alicia emailed MBBI Founder Ken Cloke to introduce herself.  This email led to an unforgettable conversation about mediation, peacebuilding, and the environment. Ken’s willingness to connect with a younger practitioner stuck with her – “I will never forget Ken Cloke writing back right away and taking the time to support and encourage my curiosity and growth”. Alicia highlighted that there have been many well-established mediators throughout her career that has taken her seriously and invested in her. Because of this early influence of Ken and others, she will always do what she can to pay it forward through mentorship and teaching.

ADR Throughout Canada

Alicia’s unique start resulted in a unique career path. The field of mediation in Canada was primarily comprised of a homogenous group of men with legal backgrounds who advised her that to be a successful mediator, she would have to go to law school. Alicia decided to follow a different path by choosing to complete a Masters in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, an LL.M. in Dispute Resolution at Osgoode Hall Law School in Canada,  as well as countless specialized certificate courses.

Today, Alicia works at ADR Chambers as a private mediator and for the Department of National Defense in Canada as a Conflict Management Practitioner. Throughout her career, Alicia has mediated cases involving workplace, personal injury, community, government, academic, and human rights disputes.  She is particularly passionate about the roles of culture and identity in conflict, Indigenous rights, and the role of women in peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

Alicia now teaches in the LL.M. in Dispute Resolution Program on the topics of Conflict Analysis and Process Design. Her love of teaching comes from a desire to inspire new mediators, something that she was always grateful for in an unconventional field that requires a fair amount of mentorship. Her advice to students is to use your talents in any way possible – shadowing, facilitating informal dialogues, writing blogs, designing workshops, whatever it takes – “start broad and do everything possible to get your name out there, network and gain experience. The world can never have enough peacebuilders”.

International Engagement

Despite her many accomplishments, Alicia is particularly proud of one aspect of her career: she works with Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth (WMC) “Collaborating with the women from the WMC is inspiring and the highlight of my career”. There is a Global Alliance of Women Mediators, which encompasses five different networks, and one of them is the WMC. The Global Alliance builds off of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, which advocates for women’s involvement in all levels of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Alicia noted that women only lead 3% of UN-supported peace processes. The Global Alliance is working to amplify women’s voices and participation across all tracks of mediation and levels of peacebuilding.

Previously, Alicia was a part of the 2019 cohort of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Fellowship, which took her to Morocco, Egypt, and Qatar to engage with civil society leaders and professionals on the topic of women in peacebuilding. Alicia has also worked internationally alongside a legal defense team for a revolutionary movement and at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Alicia’s experience in the field of mediation has led her to teach, present, and collaborate with practitioners all over the world. 

Mediation in the Time of COVID

Like many other mediators, Alicia has had to adjust her practice to fit the new reality of physical distancing and using online platforms to facilitate dialogue and navigate complex processes. She notes the change in practice in many ways, including the amount of time spent in pre-mediation sessions, reading body language and emotional cues online, and supporting parties in recognizing their physiological responses to conflict and how to employ tools to re-engage during an online process. One thing she notes is that it is necessary to slow down the process, take additional breaks, check-in on the people she’s working with, and acknowledge the additional layer of stress and exhaustion that Covid-19 adds to what is already a difficult process.

Her awareness extends to her own involvement, noting that the shared exhaustion means that holding space for people is more difficult than ever. This deliberate care for herself and others demonstrates that the changing reality may be difficult for everyone, but peacebuilders like Alicia – who take their time to truly care for those around them – make it all a little more peaceable.

Article by Lizzy Nestor, MBBI Writer