Mediation as a tool for democracy

This week I had the eye-opening opportunity to shadow retired Judge Monty Ahalt during court-mandated mediation sessions. These are meetings between  two conflicting parties that are required by law to try to resolve the dispute before going to court. The “mediator”, who in this case was the judge, tries to make both parties capitulate and come to a mutual agreement.

There are many benefits to such a form of alternate dispute resolution:

  • Cost – Since the dispute can be resolved in meetings, money can be saved by not going to court at all.
  • Time Effectiveness – the next available court date could be 4 months from now…wouldn’t it be better to resolve the conflict right now?
  • Control – the parties have more control over the outcome of the negotiation than the outcome of the trial
  • Privacy – while court hearings are public, mediation sessions can be confidential

“An ounce of mediation is worth a pound of arbitration and a ton of litigation!” – Joseph Grynbaum, P.E, @mediatorJG

You are probably wondering why I am talking about this on a blog that explores international development.
Well, it is a fact that oppression occurs everywhere, in developing as well as in developed countries. Whether at work, in marriage, domestic violence, or other areas, support and help is desperately needed.  Many times people in 3rd world countries do not have the opportunity to speak up for themselves. Going to court is often too complicated or simply unacceptable in the developing world.

Welcome to Mediation

A way to decrease maltreatment and tyranny could be to set up  mediation sessions in developing areas of the world. Since these meetings are economical, more people will have the opportunity to settle conflict legally. Furthermore, the informality of these sessions makes them accessible to nearly everyone. Using the law to make a case for the oppressed could save them from injustice – mediation is a great way to do that. However, problems could arise in the form of one of the parties questioning the finality of the mediation agreement. Mediation must therefore be supported by the court system.

South Africa, a developed country, founded the Commission for Conciliation (Mediation and Arbitration) as a dispute resolution body. It arose out of the Labor Relations Act, 66 of 1995. It clearly seems to work there, so why not widen the scope of bodies such as these and implement them worldwide? If we increase the number of such independent bodies in other, less-developed areas of the world, we can decrease oppression and give people the opportunity to lead happier, healthier lives.

For more info on the rules of Mediation and Arbitration: International Dispute Resolution Procedures

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