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What is International Conciliation?

By R. Kimball
Updated May 17, 2024
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International conciliation is the process in which two international parties to a dispute ask a conciliator to come in and help them attempt to resolve their dispute. It is a form of alternative dispute resolution that does not have legal standing. Parties to a dispute use it in order to attempt to reach a resolution before going through the regular legal process. The two sides rarely face each other across the table in the presence of the conciliator during this process.

This type of negotiation is extremely useful because the parties do not need to be in the same place at the same time. The conciliator usually sits down with each of the parties to develop a list of objectives that each would like to achieve in the negotiation process. Then the conciliator goes between both parties, working on each one of these objectives. Usually the groups work from the least important objective to the most important objective. They work this way in order to reach consensus on certain items and build trust in the conciliator and the process itself.

Each international conciliation process is completely voluntary. The parties must each agree to participate in the process. The conciliator usually contacts and interviews each of the parties to the dispute and provides any necessary information regarding specific laws involved in the dispute. He or she assists the parties in exchanging information and appropriate documents. The conciliator helps facilitate the resolution of disputes by sharing offers between the parties and suggests options to such offers amongst the parties.

Conciliators do not make decisions for disputing parties in an international conciliation process. They do not make judgments about right, wrong, or the outcome of a dispute, nor do they tell parties to a dispute what to do or not to do. Conciliators do not make rulings, and they cannot force parties to participate in the international conciliation process.

Those who work as conciliators should be highly skilled negotiators. They frequently work with specific non-governmental agencies, although some do work specifically with government agencies. Conciliators are usually licensed attorneys.

International conciliation is different from arbitration in that conciliation is not a binding legal process. The conciliator has no ability to call witnesses or make a decision. The process differs from mediation in that in mediation the parties usually meet, with the mediator guiding the discussion. In conciliation, the parties rarely meet in the presence of the conciliator.

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