Since the beginning of civilization, various forms of mediation or adjudication have existed that have helped people settle everything from family and business disputes to full-scale wars.
The American Bar Association reports that arbitration was “used to resolve early commercial disputes in Marco Polo’s desert caravans, as well as between Greek and Phoenician traders.” In ancient Greece, Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, used arbitration to resolve territorial disputes.
In 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for the first time. The prize was divided equally between Jean Henry Dunant “for his humanitarian efforts to help wounded soldiers and create international understanding” and Frédéric Passy “for his lifelong work for international peace conferences, diplomacy, and arbitration.” Dunant was the co-founder and father of the Red Cross, and Passy was an economist and pacifist who founded several peace societies and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
In 1925, the Federal Arbitration Act was passed. It established the basic legal principles for the use of arbitration in the United States and expanded the types of disputes that could be arbitrated. In 1926, the American Arbitration Association was founded to help implement and promote arbitration as an out-of-court solution to resolving disputes.
The devastating effects of two world wars and continuing geopolitical strife prompted the creation of many conflict resolution think tanks and academic programs in the 1950s and 1960s. With each passing decade, the field continued to grow as individuals, businesses, organizations, and other entities sought out alternative dispute resolution methods that did not require the parties to go to court.
Today, conflict resolution is popular because it provides opposing parties with the opportunity to resolve disputes outside of court; have more control over the conflict resolution process; keep their private information from the prying eyes of the public, media, and business competitors (most alternative dispute processes are confidential); and possibly save time and money.
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