The Encyclopaedia of Conflict Resolution defines arbitration as an extra-judicial tool through which disputes can be settled with the help of an arbitrator usually a lawyer who listens to the conflicting parties and gives his/her verdict (1997, p136). The main advantage of this approach is that, it allows the involved parties to choose the rules of procedure thus helping them avoid future disputes. For example the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, embraced by the U.N. General Assembly in its 31/98 Resolution, are useful guides to parties as they lay down the rules of resolution. A manager can act as an arbitrator to help employees resolve their conflicts at work.
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Mediation is a process through which a neutral third party intercedes between two disagreeing parties to bring about settlement, compromise or reconciliation. Mediation, according to Carpenter S. and W. Kennedy is the best approach in resolving civil (non-criminal) disputes. It provides a strong ground for the conflicting parties to identify and handle divisive interpersonal issues that might be the root cause of their disagreement (1988, p. 118-119).
Mediation and arbitration are similar in that in both cases there is third party involved who attempts to reconcile the two disputants. However there are differences between arbitrators and mediators in that an arbitrator usually provides a solution to the disputing parties and is always an adult. In this case the verdict may displease one disputant and please the other. On the other hand a mediator remains impartial and only helps the conflicting parties to find a solution to their problem (p. 119).The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be best resolved using this method since earlier efforts by the two heads of state to resolve the conflict failed. The U.S President acted as a mediator to help settle the dispute and at the moment peace talks are underway with the hope that they will reach an agreement.
Negotiation involves two or more disputing parties who are involved in direct negotiations with each other in a concerted effort to settle their dispute. Each party uses influence and persuasion to reach an understanding. For instance a president can negotiate with another head of state to persuade him/her to get rid of missile silos that are posing a threat to the security of the country. Mediation and negotiation are also similar in many ways; the difference between the two is that in mediation there is third party involved who oversees and leads the process. Mediation is normally used when direct discussions or negotiations have failed.
Mediation-arbitration on the other hand uses a neutral designated to act as a mediator and an arbitrator at the same time in a dispute. According to Schwartz, this approach combines the voluntary mechanisms of persuasion employed in mediation, with an arbiter’s ability to provide a binding and final decision, when it is required (1994, p. 8). This approach is mostly utilized by parents to resolve family issues.