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
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.
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."
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.
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").
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.
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.