Mediation and Conciliation

Mediation has been defined as a voluntary, non-binding, without-prejudice, private dispute resolution process in which a neutral person helps the parties try to reach a negotiated settlement. Conciliation can sometimes be distinguished from mediation in that the third party takes a more active role in devising settlement terms or providing opinion. However, there is little consensus and meditation in one country may be conciliation in another.

Sometimes those involved in a building project need to step back when problems occur, to view them objectively. This can be difficult once a dispute has started. Often, all the technical knowledge required is present but effective progress is hampered by a lack of consensus, combined with concern over liability and cost. Bringing in a disinterested third party or mediator can assist.

Mediators need not be expert in the matters in dispute. They may draw on the expertise of others if required. They look for common ground and points of agreement, and facilitate discussion to help those involved in the dispute find ways in which they can settle their disagreements amicably.

Mediation may be done in informal discussion, follow protocols similar to those used in formal legal hearings or fall somewhere in between. The method used should be shaped to suit the participants and the complexity of the issues.

It is possible to adopt facilitative or evaluative processes. In the former, the mediator/conciliator aids or assists the parties' own efforts to formulate a settlement. In the latter, the mediator/conciliator gives an independent view of the issues.