MEDIATION -The Preferred Alternative for Conflict Resolution

George Amoh
Accra, Ghana


Conflicts have been with man since creation. In fact it was as a result of conflict that God sent away Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, in the bible. Conflicts or disputes engender both positive and negative responses depending on the way we treat them when they arise. Conflict is indeed a social process which is a common and essential feature of human existence.


The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) programme of correspondence instructions in peacekeeping operations, perhaps give the most widely accepted definition of conflict. It refers to conflict as 'pursuit of incompatible goals by individuals or groups'. In other words conflict situations arise when individuals or groups pursue positions, interests, needs, or values that may lead to actions that come up against the interests, needs and values of others when they also want to satisfy their goals.


Conflict resolution is a set of techniques for resolving conflicts with the assistance of a third party. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a concept that encompasses a variety of mechanisms by which conflicts are resolved. In other words, ADR offers alternatives to litigation which has often times been associated with delays, exorbitant fees, and discontentment.

Practitioners employ different kinds of ADR techniques including, Mediation, Negotiation, Conciliation and good offices, to resolve conflicts.


Mediation simply refers to the process of resolving conflict in which a third party neutral (mediator), assist the disputants to resolve their own conflict. The process is voluntary and the mediator does not participate in the outcome of the mediation process (agreement). The disputing parties themselves have control over the agreements to be reached.

There are indeed so many advantages in using mediation as conflict resolution mechanism;

  • The process is non-adversarial,
  • Less-expensive
  • Assures confidentiality, impartiality and neutrality
  • Is non-legalistic
  • Avoids delays
  • And very flexible
Besides, the process provides the disputants the opportunity to find solutions to their own conflicts. The process therefore ensures acceptance of the outcome by both parties, thereby enhancing sustainable peace.


The role and the general conduct of the mediator are indeed very crucial for a successful mediation to take place. Adam Curle, the first chair of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford UK (1973), who had done extensive research into conflicts came up with Four major roles expected of the mediator in the performance of his duties;

  • The mediator acts to build, maintain, and improve communication between the disputants
  • The mediator facilitates information to and between the disputants
  • The mediator must 'befriend' the disputants in the mediation process to enhance trust and confidence.
  • And fourth, to encourage what he refers to as 'active mediation'. By active mediation Curle, refers to the ability to cultivate a willingness to engage in cooperative negotiation.
In a paper presented in Perspectives on Citizens' Mediation (2000), Ozonnia Ojielo, the present head of the governance unit at the UNDP (Ghana) also observed that the mediator has the role of setting the ground rules with the consent of the parties in dispute. It is also important for the mediator to be a good listener. He or she should be someone who can listen and interpret correctly both verbal and non-verbal means of communication by disputants.


In concluding this article, may I humbly suggest to employers/ employees, teachers/students, religious institutions, families and couples to go for mediation whenever and wherever conflicts arise, in their daily discourse. It is indeed heartwarming that the Legal Aid Scheme in partnership with the UNDP has established Community Mediation Centres in all the ten regional offices of the Scheme, and in some selected communities in Ghana. It is also important to mention here the role the late chief justice, Justice George Kinsley Acquah played in promoting ADR as a necessary component of justice delivery system.

George Amoh, a GDRC Virtual Fellow, is cooridnator of the Community Mediation Centres and Prisons Decongestion Programme, Legal Aid Scheme headquarters in Accra, Ghana. This article was written in April 2007.
Return to the Urban Governance page
Comments and suggestions to -