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Staying True in Nepal: Understanding Community Mediation through Action Research

By: John Paul Lederach, Preethi Thapa

This paper explores the use of participatory action research as a method to deepen the practice of mediation at the village level in rural Nepal. Mediation, initially introduced with a strong Western orientation, has evolved through practice and the response to daily conflict during and after the civil war. At its inception, the program was framed as an “access to justice” initiative. The modalities and decisions by which the mediation centers were established in local communities, and the actual practice of mediators, suggested significant variance from the way both trainers and mediators described their work, and were seen as contributing to wider social transformation in ways that went beyond access to the legal system. Conducted with district and village-level mediators and trainers, the research yielded important insights into how and why mediation practices were effective, and led to significant changes in training materials and approach. Discussion of how participatory action research affected the participants concludes the chapter.