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Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process whereby the parties to a dispute use a conciliator, who meets with the parties both separately and together in an attempt to resolve their differences. They do this by lowering tensions, improving communications, interpreting issues, encouraging parties to explore potential solutions and assisting parties in finding a mutually acceptable outcome.
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 in conciliation, often the parties are in need of restoring or repairing a relationship, either personal or business.
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 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 dialogues, 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.
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 auspice of the court system by one judge and two non-judge "conciliators."
Civil conciliation is a form of dispute resolution for small lawsuits, and provides a simpler and cheaper alternative to litigation. Depending on the nature of the case, non-judge experts (doctors, appraisers, actuaries, and so on) may be called by the court as conciliators to help decide the case.
Domestic conciliation is most commonly used to handle contentious divorces, but may apply to other domestic disputes such as the annulment of a marriage or acknowledgment of paternity. Parties in such cases are required to undergo conciliation proceedings and may only bring their case to court once conciliation has failed.