The need for people to identify with common Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods for resolving disputes has been stressed by the director of the Multi-Door Court House.
Helen Umana Esq stated this during the induction seminar organized by the Akwa Ibom Judiciary for the newly appointed magistrate at Multi-Purpose Hall Annex, Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo, recently.
Umana noted that man is a social animal and lives in a community with other like-minded people. Conflict is a necessary occurrence because the resources, natural and man-made, available to man are finite.
She said the common ADR methods for resolving disputes are arbitration, conciliation, early natural evaluation, negotiation, facilitation and mediation, among others.
Arbitration of a dispute is usually by agreement of the parties. The court has a role to play by ensuring that parties adhere to the terms of an agreement they have voluntarily entered into. Reference of a dispute to arbitration is usually consensual.
The parties to the dispute agree to submit the dispute to a neutral person or panel of their choice. Both sides then make their representations to the arbitrator.
Umana stated that the arbitrator studies all the materials presented and he gives a binding decision at the end of the day.
He is usually an expert in the area of the dispute. Arbitration has been around for a long time and is very popular in commercial and matrimonial disputes.
In the area of conciliation, the director maintained that this process is relatively informal. Neutrality and confidentiality are usually not guaranteed as the intervener or conciliator is acting as a go between to encouraged improved communication and working relationships between the parties.
Conciliation is often described as a "cooling off forum where the conciliator usually offers counsel, advice and suggestions on the way forward in order to de-escalate the conflict.
The early natural evaluation is another form of ADR, this process is the process where parties submit to a neutral evaluator, who studies the strength and weakness of the parties' case and renders a "non-binding prognosis or opinion of the outcome if the matter goes to litigation. It is hoped that such an impartial opinion will push the parties toward amicable settlement.
Negotiation on the other hand is usually a voluntary process in which the parties themselves sit down, identify and discuss the issues that is causing the conflict.
They will attempt to work out a solution to the problem. this method is dependent on the parties being effective communicators with great interpersonal skills. The drawback is that in most area of conflict there is usually a dominant party and it might be rather difficult negotiating with the side who holds almost all the aces.
According to Umana, another ADR method is facilitation, this is very often a process used to help a group of people or parties hold constructive discussions about complex or potentially controversial issues. The facilitator provides assistance by helping the parities to set ground rules for the discussions, he helps to keep the group focused on the issues at stake and keeps them on track so they do not deviate from the rules set. Hopefully, the discussions will yield to compromises.
In mediation there is usually an impartial person called a mediator who facilitates the parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. Most significantly, the mediator does not decide dispute. His role is principally to bring the disputants to the negotiation table, facilitate the airing of their grievances and manages the process of negotiation until a closure of the process.
In mediation the parties drive the process and the control of the outcome of the process lies with the party.
The mediator may suggest or propose a resolution but he does not impose it on the parties.
The parties may use the proposal as a template for further negotiations until all the areas of dispute are finally settled and documented.
Mediation process is most amenable to the preservation of the relationship between the parties before the commencement of hostilities. It is useful in resolution of disputes that seeks to preserve relationships such as family, labour and commercial disputes.
The mediation process is successful if the parties are willing to cooperate, sit down together and negotiate a compromise, but difficult to mediate where party is unwilling and refuses to honour an invitation to the mediation table.
Umana advised parties to offer a range of alternatives such as those mentioned above to resolve their disputes, urging parties to have access to assistance in screening cases or evaluating their cases to determine which of the resolution processes in most appropriate and best suited for the dispute.