October is Conflict Resolution Month – A Reminder “It’s Us or Them” is Not the Only Alternative

Published October 2017
by Theodore A. Deckert

2017 has presented very dramatic examples of different ways to approach the challenges of conflict in our lives and our societies, be they personal, religious, societal,  local, national or  international.  We are in the midst of a time in our history where the need to be heard and respected, individually or as part of the group with which we identify as “us” has risen to the point that “fighting for us” is viewed by many as a better way for “us to be heard”  than dialogue with those we see as “them.”  October is recognized by various groups around the world as Conflict Resolution Month to promote and celebrate peaceful conflict resolution practices worldwide and it is a good reminder that the “it’s us or them”, “winner or loser” perspectives are not the most effective way to achieve the best long term outcome for all concerned.

Diplomacy and negotiation have long been recognized as better than force as the way to resolve political and other national and international disputes.  Various forms of “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) have been incorporated into many treaties and other agreements.   As most lawyers are aware, ADR , and in particular mediation,  has become more and more common in the legal world over the last few decades.  Whether by contract, statute or rule,  it is often the first resolution process parties with a dispute must utilize before they can “go to court.”   As such, it has grown from the “alternative” into  the primary process for resolving  many types of personal, business or other disputes and it continues to be recognized and implemented more and more for all manner of disputes.

The Association for Conflict Resolution, commonly known as ACR, established the third Thursday in October as “Conflict Resolution Day” in 2005.  I have been a member of ACR for many years and as described on its website, “www.acrnet.org”, ACR is a national professional association for mediators, arbitrators, educators and other conflict resolution practitioners.  ACR was formed in 2001 when several professional  dispute resolution organizations merged.  ACR works in a wide range of settings throughout the United States and around the world enhancing the practice and public understanding of conflict resolution.

Conflict Resolution Day this year is October 19.  Per the ACR website, Conflict Resolution Day was conceived by ACR to:

  • Promote awareness of mediation, arbitration, conciliation and other creative, peaceful means of resolving conflict;
  • Promote the use of conflict resolution in schools, families, businesses, communities, governments and the legal system;
  • Recognize the significant contributions of (peaceful) conflict resolvers; and
  • Obtain national synergy by having celebrations happen across the country and around the world on the same day.

Additional information about the ACR Conflict Resolution Day programs and activities can be found by clicking on the “Education” Tab at the ACR website mentioned previously.

In addition to ACR’s Conflict Resolution Day, In 2011 the American Bar Association declared the third week of October “ABA Mediation Week” building on the efforts of ACR and many other national, state, and local organizations which have traditionally celebrated conflict resolution during the month of October.  ABA Mediation Week this year is October 15-21. The theme for ABA Mediation Week this year is “Mediation, Civility, and the Power of Understanding.” Per the ABA website, “The ABA Mediation Week initiative is a celebration of the strides we have made in institutionalizing mediation as one of several appropriate dispute resolution processes.” Information and resources for programs and activities  can be found at the ABA Mediation Week website:

“https://www.americanbar.org/groups/dispute_resolution/events_cle/mediation_week.html”

Several states recognize October as Conflict Resolution Month each year. While Florida has not yet done so, Florida has celebrated Mediation Week.  For several years the Governor has issued a proclamation recognizing Mediation Week in Florida.  As of the time this article is being written The Florida Dispute Resolution Center has requested Governor Scott issue a proclamation declaring  Mediation Week in the State of Florida which hopefully will have been issued by the time this article is published.  Locally, City of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County Commission and Palm Beach County School Board  will be issuing Mediation Week proclamations. Thank you to West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Palm Beach County Mayor Paula Burdick, and School Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa for sponsoring these proclamations.

Our ADR Committee of the Palm Beach County Bar Association has over the years also organized various community activities to promote mediation during Mediation Week.  This year there is an essay contest for public middle and high school students to write about this year’s  ABA mediation week theme.    As in past years, the committee offers speakers to civic, business  and other organizations as part of its goal to promote ADR and inform our local community about  ADR.  Anyone who knows a group that would like someone to speak about ADR should email  me at “ted@matrixmediation.com”.  For articles and many other resources about mediation and ADR, please go to the ADR Committee webpage at http://www.palmbeachbar.org/adr.

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