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Invite third parties to take part in decision making

It can help to invite one or more neutral parties to the talks and the negotiation.

What challenges does it focus on?

Bringing more third parties to the table can help parties to come to a decision.

Short summary

It can help to invite one or more neutral parties to the talks and the negotiation. This option is usually not very costly. It can be quite effective. Gradually, the decision making is taken from the parties and goes to the third parties. The following practices are found:

  • Identify suitable third parties to join the process.
  • Explain to the parties what is the goal of involving them: learn what people important to them see as fair; learn from experts; letting trusted parties decide for them if they continue to disagree.
  • Explore how the parties feel about this. Some facilitators ask the two parties to confirm that this choice is acceptable for both of them. But this may be too much to ask. One of them may refuse.
  • Prepare the third party for the neutral role.
  • Prepare with each party what to present to the influential party.
  • Present the problem to the influential party understandably and truthfully. Including the reasons for the dispute and the obstacles in reaching agreement.
  • Organize a fair process
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To make sure third parties participate effectively, you can:

  • Briefly explain what the conflict is and what parties do not agree on
  • Share the conflict map, if available.
  • Explain what you think are possible fair outcomes using sharing rules and other neutral information.
  • Confirm the role in which they can be valuable. The person can assist them to make decisions, primarily by giving information.
  • Ask if he or she can confirm that a community would like to see the conflict solved and would accept certain solutions. And would respect each party if he or she solved the conflict in a certain way.
  • Ask him or her to explain consequences if no solution is reached. But not by using force, power, threats, etc.
  • Ask the parties and the third parties to work on a solution together. A solution that will be good for the interests of both parties and that is fair.
  • Allow third parties to give their ideas for a good solution. Then ask the parties how they feel about this. If they show signs of objections, ask them to improve the solution.
  • Make sure the process comes to a closure. The parties need to get the idea that this will be the outcome.

Research evidence

Evidence from practice

In Cambodia it is common to invite the Commune Chief to be present at the facilitation of the Commune Dispute Resolution Commitees. In refugee camps in Thailand at the Burmese border, facilitators often invite influential people to take part. They can be teachers, parents or leaders. Family Panels:In Indonesia, mediators of KBH Lampung use family panels to help parties come to a decision. These consist of one member of each parties family, who are asked to be neutral. This panel then help the parties come to a decision.

Evidence from literature

In the absence of representation, informal court judges and tribunal chairs have a difficult task. They hold the key to procedural fairness and have animportant influence on the outcome of hearings.

Hazel Genn (1993) Tribunals and Informal Justice, The Modern Law Review Limited

The following guidelines summarise how conciliators in the WorkCovercontext in Australia manage the switch from the role of facilitator toconciliator.

  • Signal transitions during process: During a conciliation meeting, points of transition between roles should be clearly marked. ‘My sense of the meeting so far is that we are not likely to reach agreement through discussion. As foreshadowed in my opening introduction, I now wish to move to a recommendation role …’
  • Transition — when exercising a formal recommendation role If agreement cannot be reached through consensus, the conciliator signals the change of role to recommendation and gives conditions of acceptance or refusal of any recommendation proposed. A justification for the recommendation is provided.
  • Transition — when exercising a decision-making role If agreement cannot be reached through consensus, and perhaps after attempts to get agreement by recommendation, the conciliator signals his or her intention to move toward deciding whether the dispute cannot be taken any further through conciliation. Comments are invited from all parties and discussed prior to a decision being made research findings indicate that decision-making.

Bryson, D. (1999). When wearing different hats: suggestions for ADR practice. ADR Bulletin 1(10)

Enforce the ground rules to reinforce the role of the third party as being as objective and neutral as possible.

Baylis, C., Robyn, C. (2005). Power issues in mediation. ADR Bulletin 7(8)

Because we all have a degree of influence (no matter how small) on those around us, bringing third parties to the table can help get to a decision. Looked at in this way, peers can be decision makers too, not just those who have large social power or influence.

Ury, W. (2000). The Third Side. Penguin, New York:New York

Best practices