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Involving unwilling parties

When parties do not want to cooperate to find an outcome the facilitators could help them to make them change their minds.

What challenges does it focus on?

Convincing parties to take part in the process.

Short summary

 Facilitators say that all parties involved in a dispute are needed to reach a fair solution. When parties do not want to cooperate to find an outcome the facilitator can do several things to make them change their minds:

  • Show them it is safe to cooperate
  • Show that cooperating is more attractive than non-cooperation. Be careful not to be too one-sided
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 If this is not sufficient, make personal contact and explain facilitator's role:

  • Emphasise you are neutral and impartial
  • Make clear that you are not on the side of particular party but on the side of justice.
  • Ask for their perspective on the story. Make sure they feel heard
  • Emphasise that information shared remains confidential
  • Emphasise that your aim is a fair outcome that takes their needs, worries and fears into account

Explain how you will keep looking for a fair solution if they do not cooperate:

  • Maybe you will ask advice of a lawyer
  • Perhaps you will open a court procedure
  • Explain the benefits of cooperating:
  • Avoiding going to court
  • Affordable solution
  • Maintaining reputation
  • Control over the outcome
  • Doing the right thing
  • Write a letter to show that you serious and confident
  • Involve others that can help to get the party cooperating
  • Make non-constructive behavior public

Research evidence

Evidence from practice

  • Highlight Benefits of Mediation: In Egypt, Mali, Rwanda and Indonesia we found that facilitators/mediators demonstrated the benefit of a mediation process, with lower costs, a quicker response and more sustainable relationships compared to formal systems.
  • Use the formal system for pressure: In Bangladesh and in Mali the formal system is used as pressure to convince parties to take part. It is embarrassing for a party if a conflict has to be solved through courts. Thus the threat of the formal system can be enough to encourage parties to take part in a mediation.
  • Highlight Costs/Risks of Formal Systems: In these same countries mediators advise parties who are unwilling to take part in a mediation of the risks and costs which are associated with a formal system, including financial costs, time involved, and the uncertainty of ‘winning’ the case. This is also an approach highlighted as effective by a workshop held by Praxis in Azerbaijan.
  • Highlight role & Independence: In Indonesia, Azerbaijan and Cambodia, mediators highlight both the fact that they are independent (not working ‘for’ either party), are volunteers (so not affected by power differences) and that they simply want to find a solution that both parties can agree to.
  • Repeat the invitation: Facilitators in Cambodia and Egypt will revisit parties several times before they accept that the invitation is declined.
  • Smart use of social pressure: In Cambodia facilitators sometimes approach a third party who can influence the unwilling person
  • Individual approaches: Lawyers from Praxis often approach the other party as individuals, reducing the formality and threat of taking part. This gives them an opportunity to explain the purpose of the process and their role, so that there is less perceived threat from the process.


Evidence from handbooks:

What can CDRC members do to increase chances that both parties show up?
Encourage them by explaining that it is in their long-term interest to mediate. That if it is in the husband’s interest to work things out with his wife in order to avoid a divorce, this is his opportunity to do so, or if there is a mutual decision to divorce, this can be discussed before heading to court.

Operations Manual for Commune Dispute Resolution Committee, UNDP Cambodia 2008, p. 30


Evidence from literature

Fear (of negative outcomes) can be a useful motivation to change attitudes
Perloff, R. M. (2010) Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century, Communication Series. Communication Theory and Methodology; 4th Ed, New York Taylor & Francis Routledge

Two sided messages, showing pro's and con's, influence attitudes more than one-sided messages, provided the message overcomes opposition arguments.

Allen, M. (1998) Comparing the effectiveness of one and two sided messages. In M. Allen, & R. W. Preiss (Eds), Persuasion: Advances through metaanalysis, pp.87-98. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press

O’Keefe, D. J. (1999) How to handle opposing arguments in persuasive messages: A metaanalytic review of the effects of one-sided and two-sided messages. In M. E. Roloff (Ed.), Communication Yearbook 22, pp209-249

Best practices