Remembering Thierry Garby

Thierry Garby, an ambassador of international mediation, passed away in January. ICC, and the broader dispute resolution community, were fortunate to have had the benefit of Thierry’s energies and contributions over many years. It is difficult to imagine how mediation in Europe – and globally – would have evolved over the past quarter-century in the absence of his leadership, persistence, and encouragement.

Thierry began his career as a member of the Paris bar in 1972. To hear his modest telling, he carried out unremarkable work in litigation and arbitration for French and international clients, until he discovered mediation as a means of solving problems. In 1998, he became a mediator and quickly built a reputation that reached well beyond France. Just two years later, he had become a mediator and mediation trainer full time.

In 2007, Thierry was among the first mediators to be certified by the International Mediation Institute (IMI), and one of only two mediators in France at the time to hold this certification. He also held certification from the Institut français pour la certification des médiateurs.

He was also a mediator with both the World Bank Group and the United Nations, and a Distinguished Fellow of the International Academy of Mediators. Thierry’s dedication to the promotion of mediation knew no boundaries. He established an international organization to convene mediators and mediation centres, the UIA World Forum of Mediation Centres, and a French organisation dedicated to the promotion of mediation, the Académie de la Médiation. He was an active participant in IMI,1 where he helped develop international standards for mediation.

At ICC, he acted as arbitrator and more frequently as mediator. He was a formidable and frequent presence, including at the international mediation competition,2 where he regularly participated as a judge or mediator. He authored the ICC publication Agreed! Negotiation/ mediation in the 21st century (2016), in both English and French.3 In introducing the book, Thierry mentioned the importance of addressing emotions as a tool rather than as an obstacle to reaching resolution:

‘Emotions are the key to problem-solving … if you cannot deal with them, no solution can be found; if you can, the conflict can either disappear or be easily resolved’, he said.

In his later years, Thierry trained negotiators and mediators around the world, through bars and law societies, universities, international organisations, and of course at ICC. For one conference he organized at ICC offices in Paris, Thierry created a role play with audience participation for a dispute between two small companies on course to litigation, with one of them possibly heading for bankruptcy. It was an effective demonstration that mediation can sometimes bring results even to cases that are seemingly impossible to resolve by agreement.

Thierry was without question ahead of his time. In a 2006 audio interview by one of us,4 he noted how mediation in France had been promoted by the government and chambers of commerce to assist small businesses to resolve disputes of amounts equivalent of €15,000, where the average was then reaching into the millions for large and complex disputes. While he was pleased that mediation was being employed by sophisticated international companies, Thierry never lost sight of how mediation could fulfil its initial goals of assisting smaller businesses.

As ICC is about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Court of Arbitration, Thierry would be pleased to see how the institution’s objectives are aligned with his desire to make it easier for small businesses to resolve international disputes. Above all, Thierry has left ICC and for all those whose lives he touched professionally and personally, an enthusiasm for mediation and optimism that people are often more capable than they know of reaching an agreement.

3 Agreed! Negotiation/mediation in the 21st century

4 M. Mcilwrath, Episode 3, International Dispute Negotiation, available at


Michael McIlwrath

Michael Mcilwrath is a global leader in dispute resolution. He has dedicated his career to resolving conflict through international negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and court litigation, and also by promoting broader access to civil justice that is fair and efficient. Michael Mcilwrath has conducted mediations and arbitrations around the world under…

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