Conflict over water is increasing to the point that it is becoming a common theme throughout the world. Yet in most cases mechanisms and institutions to manage disputes over water resources are either absent or inadequate. While competition over water is increasingly becoming a source of tension – and even conflict – history shows that the need for freshwater can result in cooperation among different users. Mediation provides an alternative to conflict.
As an alternative to judicial process mediation has a number of advantages:
● Mediation is often much less expensive;
● Mediation can produce results much faster than litigation, which can require years to reach an ultimate verdict;
● Mediation can provide an answer for the special needs of the parties and society;
● Mediation can focus the substantive issues that are the basis for the dispute, while courts often focus on procedural issues;
● A mediator with a background in water can have the knowledge and ability to consider technical issues that the majority of judges will not be familiar with; and
● Mediation can preserve and very often enhance relationships between those in dispute. The judicial process is an adversarial process and damages the relationship between the disputants.
➢ Mediation Is Flexible
The mediation process can be adapted to meet the needs of the parties during the process and in formulating a solution. This may involve the choice over location of the mediation, the time frame, the people who are to be involved, the selection of acceptable objective criteria, and many other choices related to the process. Most important, mediation is not conducted under a fixed set of rules, as is the case in a court of law.
➢ Mediation Can Be Informal
Mediation is an informal process, designed to suit the needs of the parties. It appeals to parties who feel that they want to be partners in the process of resolving their conflict and take part in the decision on the fate of their dispute. It allows the parties to present their arguments in an informal manner, not bound by the procedures of the legal system.
➢ Mediation Can Preserve Confidentiality
Mediation is confidential, off the record, and away from the public eye and the press. The mediator is bound not to divulge any of the information he/she hears from one party to the other or to anyone else without permission, so the parties can feel free to confide in the mediator. Mediators can meet with each party in separate and private caucus, to assist them in understanding their own underlying interests and those of the other party.
➢ Mediation Is Non-binding
Mediators assist the parties to reach a negotiated settlement, an agreement, which is then usually put in writing. If the parties are not happy with the process or the outcome, they have not relinquished the right to use another dispute resolution mechanism in order to resolve their dispute, for example they can go to court or to an arbitrator.
➢ Mediation Saves Time and Money
Mediation is generally faster than the judicial process, it is less costly, and saves on resources (time, money, and energy). It can often be scheduled at the convenience of the parties, avoiding long court delays and associated costs.
➢ Mediation Maintains and Often Improves Relationships
One of the main reasons for using mediation as an alternative to the judicial process is to preserve and potentially improve relationships between the parties. Mediation has a special advantage in the case of a long-term relationship or interest-based disputes when the parties must continue their relationship after the dispute is managed. Mediation creates a foundation for resuming a productive relationship after a particular issue has been resolved. During mediation the parties gain understanding of each other’s motives, needs, and interests. This understanding can often improve the relationship between them. When the relationship is maintained and improved through the resolution of the conflict, the parties have an increased capacity both to maintain the agreement and to resolve future conflicts.
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