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About ADR

About ADR

Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, refers to a variety of ways to resolve disputes other than through litigation or formal processes in a court of law. Experience has shown that conflicts that occur between two or more parties are often amenable to more successful resolution through various forms of ADR.

There are several other options available in the ADR spectrum. These begin with conflict prevention, and progress on through the broad fields of negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Movement along the scale of options from the most collaborative to the most confrontational involves significant increase in costs, decrease in control, and reduction in satisfaction with the outcome, for all parties to the conflict.

ADR has gained popularity over the past three decades because it allows the disputants control over the process that leads to resolution of a conflict. This increases the likelihood that the resolution or settlement will more fully reflect the real interests of the parties, and will therefore be a more durable solution that ultimately saves time and money.

The value of a skilled mediator in helping to resolve international conflicts and major labour disputes has long been recognized. In recent years these techniques have been successfully applied to many other fields of human activity.


Dispute Prevention  

Experience has shown that educating people about ways to manage and defuse conflict can lead to the prevention of significant disputes. More and more schools are introducing, even at the primary level, skills training for students to recognize and ultimately deal with conflict situations. Teaching simple tools has a very positive effect on preventing disagreements from escalating. The underlying concept is one of "dispute prevention through conflict management."


Negotiation is any process that involves discussion among parties to a disagreement or conflict with a goal to resolving the conflict. The process may be quite informal or may involve other persons (such as attorneys) who will talk on behalf of the parties. Each party may hire a negotiator (other than their own legal counsel) to represent them in the negotiation. The disputants may well benefit from coaching or training in various negotiation techniques that will facilitate the process.


Mediation refers to a voluntary process in which a neutral third party is invited to assist the disputants to find a resolution to their conflict. The mediator has no authority to arrive at a decision or to impose a solution on the parties. Rather, the mediator will help the parties consider the important features of the conflict and, in particular, the underlying interests and needs of each party. At the same time, the mediator will assist the parties in developing options to resolve the disagreement in a way that responds to the needs of the participants. The process is normally completely confidential, although some multi-party public disputes are mediated in an open forum ("under the sunshine").


Arbitration is also a voluntary process in which the parties to a dispute invite a neutral third party to listen to the details of their situation and to render a decision about the conflict. The decision may be either binding or non-binding on the parties, with written agreement prior to the start of the arbitration as to the extent of the neutral's authority. The arbitrator may in fact be a panel of individuals who will hear the facts and render a decision. The process is usually more formal than is the case with mediation. There are many hybrid forms of ADR along the spectrum with processes such as "med/arb," "arb/med," "mini-trial," "fact-finding evaluation," etc. that have been developed and successfully used in different situations in a wide variety of jurisdictions and circumstances.


Litigation refers to a formal, involuntary public process to resolve a dispute. This never results in a "win-win" situation as there is always a judgment in favour of one party over another. The judgment is typically rendered after a formal hearing of evidence by a court, government agency, tribunal, or formally vested panel.



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