One of the subjects addressed at the 1996 Arbitration Conference held in Seoul, Korea, was the relationship between arbitration and mediation in the resolution of international commercial disputes. The author, a recognized authority on international ADR, examines the topic in this informative overview and concludes that although there is an expanding culture that favors combining arbitration with conciliation, each operates best when functioning separately.
The extension of mediation to the wide range of commercial disputes is a recent phenomenon which started to occur in the mid-1970s when the construction industry, with American Arbitration Association assistance, undertook to promote its use. As is well-known, the construction industry involves complex legal relationships and a high risk factor arising from the nature of the construction process. The great size of projects, changing conditions on the construction site, and the complicated interrelationship among owner, architect, engineer, contractor, subcontractor and suppliers all contribute to an environment that is a breeding ground for disputes.