Conflict is a fact of life. Every relationship is a maze one must navigate through to find the best deal for one’s self. Relationships may they be professional or personal always carry an element of competing interests which often lead to conflict. Discussing expenses with the spouse, pay raise with the boss, price of goods with the vendor, all are scenarios that can lead to disputes and conflict.

All conflicts are not negative though and can bring about change if they are facilitated by individuals finding creative solutions. New ideas can often emerge from constructive conversations. However, when conflict is not managed properly it can lead to destructive consequences. Negative emotions are stirred up, poisoning the atmosphere, undermining morale, creating stress and destroying personal and professional relationships. Ultimately, this is likely to have an adverse effect on the individual: emotionally, mentally and financially. If ignored, conflict can escalate or spread to affect others for example, in marital disputes the children often are collateral damage. Furthermore, if conflicts are not resolved, the situation may deteriorate, leading to litigation and damaging the individuals’ or organisations’ reputation. Conflict can be costly in terms of time and money. It is therefore vital to manage conflict constructively.

One of the common methods people feel they can resolve their disputes is through litigation. However, litigation as a method of conflict management is a failed method in Pakistan which has reduced the people’s trust in due process and the Pakistani Legal System. According to statistics there are around 1.7 million cases pending in Pakistani courts. Cases span decades, often outliving the litigants. Litigation is both resource intensive and time consuming. Countless citizens seeking justice therefore face grim prospects.

Furthermore, litigation is not well suited for every type of dispute specially when it concerns personal familial disputes or professional disputes where maintaining a future working relationship is vital. For example, a business can have multiple contracts with the same vendor, dispute over one should not jeopardize the others. Litigation often is the end of any relationship.

Due to these flaws in the legal system and the inherent differing nature of conflicts, alternate dispute resolution methods have become necessary. Vast expanse of people, for socio-economic reasons, have no access to courts at all for a redressal of their grievances and protection of their rights. They often resort to going to village elders or the cleric at the masjid. This can lead to injustice and arbitrary decisions unless properly conducted by trained mediators and arbitrators. Access to justice needs to be facilitated through an alternative to our existing court system at the grass root level under the cover of law. Studies show that one of the feasible, fast and working approach that has seemed effective in providing access to justice for the poor is through the ADR mainly through mediation and sometimes arbitration.

With the apparent backlog of millions of cases and a scarcity of judges in the judiciary, it is the need of the hour to explore Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanisms. Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms are methods to resolve a dispute without resorting to legal action such as Arbitration, Mediation, or Negotiation. ADR procedures are usually less costly and more expeditious. They usually involve the use of a neutral third party and can help find a creative solution to resolve an issue.

Mediation is a collaborative process where a mediator works with the parties to come to a mutually agreeable solution; mediation is usually non-binding. Arbitration is a process like an informal trial where an impartial third party hears each side of a dispute and issues a decision; the parties may agree to have the decision be binding or non-binding

Where companies have learned to use ADR effectively, they are reaping its benefits: lower costs, quicker dispute resolutions, and outcomes that preserve and sometimes even improve relationships. At Chevron, for instance, ADR-based mediation of one dispute costed them $25,000, whereas going to court would have costed as much as $2.5 million over a period of three to five years.

So why is ADR not used in Pakistan? There are several reasons, primarily based on an attitude of an industry built over fermenting conflict. The unfortunate reality is that ADR is assumed to threaten litigation, falsely so, but the assumption has taken root. Weeding it out has proven difficult, as the attempts by various stakeholders in the judiciary, and the legislature have been unsuccessful at promoting the ADR Centers that they established. We have fermented a society where justice is assumed to come from winning a case. The problem, however, is not insurmountable. There is merely the lack of awareness, the lack of qualifications, and the lack of opportunity. The systems that work unofficially, whether the “Resolution Centers” within certain business associations or in certain districts, predominantly, mediate. The Mediators there are not qualified, nor licensed, but they manage to make their own attempts at it. In doing so, they appease a desperate need to resolve relationships that do not want to end. The imagination reels from the possibilities if they do get qualified or they do train.

That is where The ADR Initiative began from. The dream began with a mind exhausted from the lethargy of litigation and its incapacity to fulfill the desires of the people demanding justice. After diving deeper than most, and exploring the why of it all, the answer became obvious. Every population on the planet, especially our current planet, fraught with turmoil and unable to realize its dreams of peace, demands a mechanism to resolve conflicts. Harmoniously. The ADR Initiative realized that the key isn’t that litigation is the problem, but it is not, and never has it been, equipped to resolve conflicts. They are blanks before a conflict comes to a fight. We just never had any way to fill those blanks before. Those blanks are filled with negotiations, and mediations. That is where the realization came that work needed to be done. There is a need. The only sustainable way to fulfill that need is not to replace, but to enable. To teach. To spread the knowledge.

There was a question though of how. The answer was, to enable the existing talent and imaginations that exist. Start with the young, teach them that there is more to life than just conflict, that there is the option, to sit and mediate. That little seed in a little head would grow to encompass a human who would inevitably be capable of looking at the world from beyond their own self-serving perspective. Which in itself is a gift. The ADR Initiative started with the students, to show them that there was a path, beyond the weathered beaten one, that could lead to a deeper connection and understanding of conflict resolution.

With that vision, the ADR Initiative began fostering its friends and partners. They introduced ADR-ODR International to Pakistan, the world’s fastest growing conflict management organization. ADR-ODR International conducted its first, and Pakistan’s first International Civil-Commercial Mediation course in November 2019, in collaboration with the ADR Initiative. Through that course, came the first batch of visionaries and peace builders of Pakistan. The phenomenal response to that course, made it clear that the objective and vision resonated at a deeper level with the population. This has allowed the formulation of new plans, of the creation of new bonds, and affirmations of new collaborations and partnerships. It is possibly one of the most exciting times in our world, to expand your horizons and see beyond the scope of the old guard.

Conflict is an inevitable fact of life. How we approach it. How we handle it. Those are what govern the human race and our claims to civilization. The world is moving to a destination, where we need better tools of coexistence. It needs to hear and learn from others. It needs to learn to listen. It needs to mediate.