From negotiating motor insurance claims in London and mediating civil cases in Boston, to reviewing legislative frameworks in West Africa, Shahmuddin (Saadi) Siddiky’s experience in alternative dispute resolution spans four continents. Now, as a founder of the Africa Mediation Program, he is using the tools he acquired at Harvard Law School to solve critical problems at the ground level.
Saadi’s formal negotiation education dates back to 2009 while he was training as a barrister in England. Three years later, as a student at Harvard Law School, he found himself in the Winter Negotiation Workshop with Prof. Bob Mnookin and Kathy Holub. “In some ways,” he reflects, “that was how it all started.”
“Have a group of students work from 9 to 5 for three weeks straight, throw in some challenging negotiation problems to solve; and it is bound to be interesting. There are emotions to manage, non-monetary issues to address, personality dynamics to reconcile. You start realizing that there is much more to effective negotiation than just the acknowledged substance of any dispute,” he says. “I enjoyed the experience so much that I started enrolling in more alternative dispute resolution (ADR) courses.”
Saadi also took the Dispute Systems Design course, where he wrote a paper on negotiating water resources in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan with the backdrop of the Farakka Dam operation. In the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP), he was part of a team that conducted a conflict assessment for Michigan State University College of Law, producing a report on how to design a cohesive peer mediation program to resolve on-campus disputes. In addition, Saadi trained as a mediator with the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP), where he subsequently served as a coach. In addition he assisted David Hoffman in research on how broadly “interests” can be defined in negotiation, and whether the definition can and should include emotional or moral interests.
“My ADR experiences at Harvard, particularly those with HMP and HNMCP, really gave me a new set of tools to approach, analyze and solve problems. It has become much easier to construct a blueprint of a conflict. And, more importantly, I learned to ask more questions.
Saadi’s love of both ADR and travel have taken him to the Gambia, in West Africa, where he is working as a Legal Consultant for the United Nations. He is currently drafting basic, intermediate and advanced training manuals for local ADR training providers. He has trained members at all levels of the judiciary, legal practice and academia, and has worked with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat at the Ministry of Justice to review the local ADR legislative framework and propose implementation strategies, particularly relating to the provisions involving the institutionalization of ADR within the existing judicial system. He is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of the Gambia, Law Faculty where he teaches “Methodology of Alternative Dispute Resolution” to upperclassmen.
His main focus, however, is designing and establishing the Africa Mediation Program, a student-run community program that will allow law students to learn, practice and teach mediation, as well as offer mediation services in the community.
“The goal of the Program is to build legal capacity at the community level by offering people—who are often too poor to afford private legal representation—access to a means of resolving their disputes. In the near future, we aim to work with local courts and tribunals in an effort to form a more cohesive, and less alienating, dispute resolution infrastructure.”