What is ADR?

Contributed by HenryMoser and current to 27 July 2018

ADR refers to processes, other than judicial determination, in which an impartial person (an ADR practitioner) assists those in a dispute to resolve the issues between them.

ADR is commonly used as an abbreviation for Alternative Dispute Resolution, but can also be used to mean Assisted or Appropriate Dispute Resolution. It is at times also referred to as Primary Dispute Resolution (PDR).

Some people also use the term ADR to include approaches that enable people to prevent or manage their own disputes without outside assistance. This chapter describes only those processes in which an ADR practitioner directly assists people who are already in a dispute.

There are three distinct ways to resolve conflict: based on rights, power, or concerns and needs (interests). Conflict resolution based on power often results in the person with the least power missing out. This may or may not be fair and may or may not resolve the conflict in the long term. Along the way, there is usually a power struggle which may continue beyond the ‘resolution’. Similarly, where conflict resolution focuses on the strict legal rights of each individual there will be one winner and one loser. In many situations, this is the appropriate outcome, so courts are called upon to decide, that is, to make a determination. The key feature of ADR is that a resolution is sought based on people’s needs; the objective of an ADR process is an agreement that everyone will find workable in the long term; one that suits the people concerned.

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