Article Review: Mediation in Dispute Resolution

The City Hall Scoop (2011) article, “Maybe a legal mediator could break the budget impasse”, provides insight into the use of mediation as a negotiation approach in resolving disputes. The article discusses how mediation may help resolve an impasse in balancing the Minnesota state budget following the different positions taken by the Governor, Mark Dayton, a democrat, and the republican-controlled legislature. The suitability of mediation in resolving the dispute is advanced on various grounds.

Firstly, the article observes that face-to-face negotiations between parties who have specific agenda, based on their party differences, rarely work where the negotiations play out in the general public. Accordingly, mediators, who are not affiliated to any party in the conflict, may help soften the positions of warring parties by initially meeting key players separately,  thus moving the process towards resolution (Martinez-Pecino, Munduate, Medina & Euwema, 2008). Quoting a mediation practitioner, Dan Simon, the article observes that mediation, “creates enough space for the conversation to unfold in a healthier way than it generally is going when people are in extreme conflict.”

Mediation process thus provides an avenue for the parties to express themselves in a way that may elicit viewpoints with which all the parties to the impasse are comfortable (Wade, 2003; Gaitan & Kleiner, 1999). Such aspects of consensus then form a common goal along which the warring parties can work rather than focusing on winning over the other side. Further, an advantage of mediation over other dispute resolution approaches such as arbitration, as noted in the article, is that only when parties voluntarily draw up a legal agreement, does is become binding(Gaitan & Kleiner, 1999). Such voluntary nature may thus serve to attract parties into the negotiation table as opposed to situations where the parties perceive the negotiations to result from force. Despite such advantages of mediation, the article notes of one of its limitations, that mediation depends on the ability of the mediators to move the warring parties towards a common goal, by making the parties overcome their differing agendas, to focus on the common goal. Thus, mediation requires skilled mediators and the process may be more prolonged when differences between the warring parties are pronounced.

The article thus reinforces the effectiveness of mediation in resolving disputes. It highlights the advantages of mediation over other approaches to negotiation and highlights a limitation of mediation. Mediation for instance offers an avenue for the warring parties to identify a common goal by facilitating the expression of the viewpoints of such parties. The process of identifying a common goal to work towards resolution, may however be crowded by differing agendas thus making the mediation process lengthy.

References

City Hall Scoop (2011, June 29). Maybe a legal mediator could break the budget impasse. Retrieved from http://blogs.twincities.com/city_hall_scoop/2011/06/maybe-a-legal-mediator-could-b.html

Gaitan, R. & Kleiner, B. H. (1999). How to conduct mediation effectively. Equal Opportunities International, 18(5/6), 69-73.

Martinez-Pecino, R., Munduate, L., Medina, F. J. & Euwema, M. C. (2008). Effectiveness of mediation strategies in collective bargaining. Industrial Relations, 47(3), 480-495.

Wade, J. H. (2003). Preparing for mediation and negotiation in succession disputes. Bond Dispute Resolution News, 15, 4-19. Retrieved from http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/BondDRN/2003/4.pdf

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