The African Ombudsman Research Centre (AORC), in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), hosted a successful webinar to provide skills on resolving complaints through mediation or alternative dispute resolution on Tuesday, 17 January 2023.
The AORC, which is situated at UKZN, is the resource and archive centre of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA), which advocates and promotes the use of the ombudsman as a provider of mediation and alternative dispute resolution in appropriate circumstances.
The webinar which explored the values and guidelines for interest-based negotiation in resolving disputes, procedures of mediation as a means of resolving disputes, and guidelines for conciliation as a means of resolving disputes comprised Honourable Chijioke Nnanna Ibeku, Founder/Principal Partner of Three C’s Met International Institute of Mediation Negotiation, Counselling, and Conciliation in Nigeria, Honorable Gabriel Savino, Ombudsman of Santa Fe, Honourable Chidy Martins Lasbery, Vice President in charge of Marketing and Membership Drive of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC)in Nigeria as well as Honourable Commissioner Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi who is the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).
Advocate Kholeka Gcabeka, the Public Protector of South Africa and AORC Board Chairperson, highlighted that ombudsman institutions have increasingly used specific Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) skills and mediation to handle disputes. ‘Ombudsmen has become a common feature for complaints and resolving of conflicts that most countries use within their framework and for dealing with complaints against the public administration,’ she said.
Ibeku who gave a full understanding of how the mediation works, also emphasised the importance for both parties (involved in a dispute) to understand what they want (as the outcome) as this is key to settling the conflict. He reminded the ombudsmen that even though there are many different approaches to resolving disputes in the context of mediation, good negotiation skills should be applied in the interest of both parties. ‘We may assume that the definition of negotiation is well known by all but it may surprise us that some people mistake negotiation for bargaining. Bargaining is what one or the other party wants,’ he said.
Lasbery explained how conciliation works as an alternative dispute resolution process, providing parties with a safer space for reviewing options and enabling them to develop their settlement terms in a mutually agreed format. ‘The process is also often compared to mediation as it involves similar situations where two parties have to resolve a dispute with a neutral third party. However, in the process, the conciliator has a stronger role, can suggest settlement terms to the parties, and can carry on with his assignments to a reasonable extent based on documentary evidence.’
Giving insight on the new restorative approaches in mediation as one of the means of dispute resolution in Human Rights Protection Institutions, Savino explained how the Ombudsman Office in the Province of Santa Fe on how they have set up the mediation and offers training within their institutions. He also highlighted the use of the restoration intervention approach for resolving conflicts.
‘Because mediation is a formal methodological procedure, certain conditions must be met. When the intervention is more informal, facilitation or a friendly composer is used. When the situation is more complex and involves children and adolescents, “restorative interventions” are carried out with great success,’ he said.
Click here to view the recording of the webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kB2U85wzZU&t=176s
Words: Samukelisiwe Cele