Alternative Dispute Resolution Approaches and their Application

Summary

Alternative Dispute Resolution comprises various approaches for resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way, ranging from negotiation between the two parties, a multi-party negotiation, through mediation, consensus building, to arbitration and adjudication.

The report introduces the key skills required, with particular attention to their important role in the process of negotiation and mediation, with examples of their application in national and international water conflicts.

Conflict is endemic to human society, among individuals and groups, and it is important to manage it. We find stories in the Bible, in the Islamic culture, among Native Americans, First Nations in Canada, and many other traditions that describe processes that have been used from the earliest times to find peaceful solutions to various disputes, and much can be learned from the past.

In recent decades, the various conflict resolution approaches have become a widely accepted field both of academic study and of practice, with official and/or legislative functions in many countries. In international relations, they plays an increasing role in containing, managing and resolving potential sources of conflict.

The report reviews its complex development. While conflict can be dangerous, it also carries the possibility of producing creative cooperation in a win.win solution. The key to this is for participants to engage as joint problem solvers, seeking to resolve the dispute, and to try and "enlarge the pie" rather than acting as adversaries and aggravating the situation.

A mediator can play a valuable role in this process, facilitate a negotiation process which has come to a dead end, helping the parties concerned to focus on their essential interests rather than defend (or attack) fixed positions. The principles and procedures of consensus building are dealt with in some detail.

The report outlines the principles of negotiation, based on interests and needs of the parties, the use of proper communication, and maintenance of a working relationship as an essential component for reaching a durable agreement.

It lists and considers the essential skills needed by negotiators and mediators, and points the different cultural expectations (national, regional, religious, or professional) and the psychological aspects that affect perceptions and communications. It outlines a range of strategies for and approaches to mediation, and the ethical problems that may arise.

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