Solving disputes out of court

Barbara is seven months pregnant, but she still shows a lot of energy when she talks about the new research group and its subject: dispute resolution. This is a common thread throughout her career. Barbara was born in Poland and obtained her PhD in Italy, where she worked as an arbitration counsel. At The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS) she teaches arbitration in the LAW programme and coordinates the Minor in Dispute Resolution.

Informal solutions

“Dispute resolution is about solving legal problems not necessarily in courts,” says Barbara. “More and more we have informal dispute resolution in every field of our lives. Mediation, negotiation and arbitration are well-known techniques of dispute resolution. You have a third party, not a judge, who is a neutral person giving a private judgment or proposing a solution which you later may need to enforce. Dispute resolution is an umbrella term for all those techniques for solving disagreements outside courts.”

Popular

Dispute resolution is becoming more and more popular. Says Barbara, “In fact we don’t always know what options for dispute resolution we have nowadays. The system as such exists from ancient times. Even then judges were officially deciding disputes. But when states emerged, they took over and became agents of justice for us. By going to court we got used to the system.”

Different times

“Nowadays courts are overburdened, and judges cannot keep up with all the cases,” says Barbara. “In addition, our problems have also changed because we live in different times. We use apps, we want things done quickly; new technology is very present in our lives. So, the procedures we have for solving disputes are no longer in line with our contemporary lives and problems. Out of court dispute resolution can give us a fast solution.”

More advantages

There are many advantages of informal dispute resolution. It leads to forward-looking solutions. Barbara explains, “You try to improve the relationship between two parties, to talk things over. It is more about looking for solutions than looking for sanctions. For that reason, governments and politicians nowadays look to these new techniques, use them somehow in combination with court proceedings. They are efficient in terms of time and money, and work faster as compared to official law procedures.”

Increasing awareness

Although very useful, it is a pity that people are not familiar with the concept of dispute resolution. “We are born in a system where we are used to the rules coming from public authorities, so we think they are legitimate. Many people are distrustful towards informal dispute resolution because they don’t know what their options are. And with out of court dispute resolution we don’t know if we can trust the third party/mediator. The authority question is important. Therefore, it’s the goal of the research group to increase public awareness by creating toolkits and giving presentations.”

Getting ahead

Dispute resolution is a growing field. The research group wants to get ahead of this trend and establish THUAS as a leader in private dispute resolution. Barbara, “THUAS is an excellent place to do this research because we have inspiring lecturers, engaged students and are in The Hague. As the international city of peace and justice, The Hague is associated with many public solutions. For example, the Permanent Court of Arbitration may be looking for new partnerships, such as the one with the P.R.I.M.E. Finance Institution dealing with financial disputes. The city of The Hague is engaged in many projects in the field of arbitration. This shows that new partnerships are needed in the field of peace and justice but with an open mind.”

Improving life

“Dispute resolution for me is very much about communication, making relationships better. I don’t think we need to have formal authorities for problem solving. Dispute resolution can be applied in so many aspects of our lives. We negotiate so many times per day that we don’t even know about. Becoming aware of those techniques and trying to implement them is important because they can improve our lives.”

The research group kickoff is on 5 February 2019.