Mediating Public Disputes: Obstacles and Possibilities

TitleMediating Public Disputes: Obstacles and Possibilities
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1985
AuthorsSusskind, L, Ozawa, C
JournalJournal of Social Issues

Mediated negotiation has recently been used to supplement traditional methods of resolving complex public resource allocation disputes in the United States. Although many of these efforts have apparently been successful, procedural concerns have been raised by a number of analysts. In this paper, we focus on five of these concerns: (1) problems of representation, (2) the difficulties of setting an appropriate agenda, (3) obstacles to joint fact finding, (4) difficulties of binding parties to their commitments, and (5) obstacles to monitoring and enforcing negotiated agreements. Our discussion builds on three cases: a negotiated investment strategy undertaken by the state of Connecticut; a dispute over the siting of a low-income housing project in Forest Hills, New York; and an environmental dispute involving energy production facilities along the Hudson River. These experiences indicate that the difficulties associated with mediation can be overcome with the application of innovative techniques, and the assistance of a skillful and astute mediator.