Fahmi Shahab has a background in law and economics. After he graduating he joined a career in private banking as a credit officer for four years. Around 1998, Indonesia entered a recession, which permitted him to get involved with the Jakarta Initiative Taskforce, an initiative from the Indonesian government. He joined as a case manager (mediator) and docket manager, which permitted him to serve his community in many ways. This was a governmental project that came to an end in 2003. Prior to this, the government had implemented it because of the number of cases that they were receiving during such a period of time.

Indonesian Mediation Center

He stated, “Coming out of this task force, we embarked on a smaller scale project to see whether there was a demand for mediation. The survey and discussions we facilitated supported the initiative to set up the Indonesian Mediation Center in 2003.” Their first Indonesian Mediation Center (IMC) related activities consisted of providing mediation training to judges and the larger public. He stated, “We continued in 2004 and opened to administer cases on mediation later on. In fact, we continue doing different trainings at that point.” The Supreme Court in Indonesia at the time was facing challenges on backlog cases; they wanted to try mediation to reduce some of the cases that were brought up at the Supreme Court level. The trainings and certifications for judges permitted this initiative to move forward.

Around 2003, the court came to recognize that civil cases should be mediated before moving on to the hearing phase, which provided a wonderful opportunity to maximize the work of IMC. For largely populated cities, Fahmi recognized that there are a lot of cases that require mediation. He stated, “not all judges have been trained on mediation though, it is only a small part of them that have gone through this.” In fact, some judges may feel like mediation is an additional responsibility or a task that falls outside their set of expertise, which has made it challenging for streamlining training. In the eyes of Fahmi, mediation could be shorter compared to court litigation. Arbitration can also be shorter compared to litigation yet mediation holds a special framework for the work he wants to continue pursuing.

Getting Involved with Mediation

The job history of Fahmi gave him numerous opportunities to work in different settings and contexts. In fact, as a credit officer, he was able to assist the bank and respective parties on debt recovery. The recession and the opportunity to join the Jakarta Initiative Taskforce provided him to transfer such skillset into new mediation platforms. In this process, he gradually recognized that mediation is new for Indonesia. He stated, “Mediation is a bit different from the old mechanisms in place to pursue conflict resolution. In Indonesia, there are many settlements that are facilitated by the elders and chiefs of tribes but they do more conciliation, but in mediation, we do not give a solution, we do not do give suggestions, we prepare them to analyze their own case and develop options.” Empowering those in the mediation process is not easy yet important for such parties to become self-thriving. In fact, when he mediates, Mr. Fahmi still is able to maintain a good relationship among all parties. For instance, if a case is not reached, he still keeps a good relationship and connection with those other parties despite not settling.

The Future of Mediation

Mr. Fahmi stated, “I have experience as a senior consultant in Indonesia related to settling disputes especially in the business sector.” This included investment projects assisted by European Union. Recently, he reported working on other projects on citizen and movement engagement. He stated, “now, we are still busy with training and the biggest challenge is the awareness of the public.” He highlighted that in the context he works in, there is still unfamiliarity with mediation mechanics. People often believe that a mediator is a broker and it is not easy to differentiate between both in their minds. Therefore, he is still working on capacity building as well as awareness of mediation as a whole.

He further stated that there are many tribes in Indonesia; they have a social system of how to solve their own problems or issues among their members. However, after the influence of the west within education, people have become more litigious. Some bring their own parents into the court, which provides additional complications. Nonetheless, it is important to stay focused on the work in all sectors. Though the pandemic has affected many mediators and will continue to do so, Mr. Fahmi stressed communication as the means to reconnect and bridge new relationships.

MBBI Involvement

Fahmi stated, “I got involved with MBBI through the Congress in Bali. They asked me for help with marketing and participant recruitment.” He also got engaged with the workshop on inter-religious disputes, which he contributed with remarks on SDGs and mediation. Currently, many children are aware of mediation but they call it “collaborative problem-solving.” Thus, is the first to integrate a holistic SDG framework. He encourages others to also get involved with MBBI. In fact, he shared that with young mediators, he recommends that they should be prepared to give their services pro-bono to places like the court.

He stated after they go through certification, I advise all participants to register in a court to give free services. This will give them experience and enhance their confidence level. After they begin collecting successful cases, they call to sell this service.” However, for experts in the field, he actually recommends joining and building a network from a community like MBBI. This platform provides others opportunities to know what other countries are doing and what has both worked and failed. He stated, “In this process, we hopefully learn from each other.” Additionally, MBBI will introduce one to a body of experts who go beyond just mediation but on an array of other skillsets and lifestyles.

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer