1 A form of alternative dispute resolution in which an independent third party (mediator) assists the parties involved in a dispute or negotiation to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution of the points of conflict. The mediator, who may be a lawyer or a specially trained nonlawyer, has no decision-making powers and cannot force the parties to accept a settlement. In family law, for example, mediators assist spouses to resolve disputes that have arisen as a consequence of the breakdown of their marriage by reaching agreement or reducing conflict over future arrangements for children or their finances. Mediation, which is designed to avoid the need to take cases to court, is likely to be extended to many other areas of the law since the publication of Lord Woolf'sAccess to Justice (Final Report) 1996 and the introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules, in which it is actively encouraged.
2 (in international law) A method for the peaceful settlement of an international dispute in which a third party, acting with the agreement of the disputing states, actively participates in the negotiating process by offering substantive suggestions concerning terms of settlement and, in general, by trying to reconcile the opposing claims and appeasing any feeling of resentment between the parties involved. See also conciliation; good offices.