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Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process whereby the parties to a dispute (including future interest disputes) agree to utilize the services of a conciliator, who then meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences. He does this by lowering tensions, improving communications, interpreting issues, providing technical assistance, exploring potential solutions and bringing about a negotiated settlement.

Conciliation differs from arbitration in that the conciliation process, in and of itself, has no legal standing, and the conciliator usually has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, usually writes no decision, and makes no award.

Conciliation differs from mediation in that the main goal is to conciliate, most of the time by seeking concessions. In mediation, the mediator tries to guide the discussion in a way that optimizes parties needs, takes feelings into account and reframes representations.

In conciliation the parties seldom, if ever, actually face each other across the table in the presence of the conciliator.


Recent studies in the processes of negotiation have indicated the effectiveness of a technique that deserves mention here. A conciliator assists each of the parties to independently develop a list of all of their objectives (the outcomes which they desire to obtain from the conciliation). The conciliator then has each of the parties separately prioritize their own list from most to least important. He/She then goes back and forth between the parties and encourages them to "give" on the objectives one at a time, starting with the least important and working toward the most important for each party in turn. The parties rarely place the same priorities on all objectives, and usually have some objectives that are not listed by the other party. Thus the conciliator can quickly build a string of successes and help the parties create an atmosphere of trust which the conciliator can continue to develop.

Most successful conciliators are highly skilled negotiators. Some conciliators operate under the auspices of any one of several non-governmental entities, and for governmental agencies such as the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in the United States.

Historical Conciliation

Historical conciliation is an applied conflict resolution approach that utilizes historical narratives to positively transform relations between societies in conflicts. Historical conciliation can utilize many different methodologies, including mediation, sustained dialogue, apologies, acknowledgement, support of public commemoration activities, and public diplomacy.

Historical Conciliation is not an excavation of objective facts. The point of facilitating historical questions is not to discover all the facts in regard to who was right or wrong. Rather, the objective is to discover the complexity, ambiguity, and emotions surrounding both dominant and non-dominant cultural and individual narratives of history. It is also not a rewriting of history. The goal is not to create a combined narrative that everyone agrees upon. Instead, the aim is to create room for critical thinking and more inclusive understanding of the past and conceptions of “the other.”

Conflicts that are addressed through historical conciliation have their roots in conflicting identities of the people involved. Whether the identity at stake is their ethnicity, religion or culture, it requires a comprehensive approach that takes people’s needs, hopes, fears, and concerns into account.

Conciliation in Japan

Japanese law makes extensive use of conciliation (調停 chōtei?) in civil disputes. The most common forms are civil conciliation and domestic conciliation, both of which are managed under the auspices of the court system by one judge and two non-judge "conciliators."

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