Building Alternative Dispute Resolution Centres Based on Transformative Change: The Example of Baidoa

Oct 13, 2021

In 2019, UNDP Somalia and the UN Joint Justice Programme introduced a new approach to conflict resolution at the community level with a series of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) trainings at the Alternative Dispute Resolution centre (ADR) in Baidoa.

This is one of several ADR centers established by UNDP Somalia and the UN Joint Justice Programme to offer mediation services to marginalised groups, particularly women. Now the ADR center in Baidoa, which operates under the South West State Ministry of Justice, is addressing discriminatory social norms by training its members on NVC and building new skills in conflict resolution, with a focus on understanding the needs of others and exploring new ways of bringing disputing parties together to explore win-win solutions and restore relationships. (For an overview of NVC and its underlying principles see here.)

The initial training was carried out by a certified NVC trainer and focused on women leaders, traditional elders and religious leaders. Single- and mixed-gender sessions involved a range of activities to help develop empathetic listening and challenge norms and assumptions.

This new report, Building Alternative Dispute Resolution Centres based on Transformative Change: The Example of Baidoa, examines what happened and what changed as a result.

The report outlines changes at three levels: (a) the individual and interpersonal relations, (b) the ADR centre and (c) the wider community. It also identifies lessons learned and makes recommendations for the way forward.

Individual-level change

·       The process uncovered inner contradictions, mental blind spots and unconscious biases, particularly regarding the way women and minority clans are treated. Although some reactions were initially defensive, this was a necessary step.

·       Participants acknowledged that the training enabled them to recognize their emotions, particularly anger, and to transform these feelings into something more positive.

·       Many participants reported being better able to communicate and connect with their children or partners.

·       The training increased women’s ability to recognise their feelings and emotions and welcome them, even when negative, as way to identify unmet needs. It also provided them with the tools to communicate while avoiding conflict and strengthened their self-confidence to the point where they became more active in the community, particularly in solving disputes.

Changes at the ADR centre

·       Participants said that after the training they took more time to listen to disputing parties to identity their feelings and needs. This was confirmed by beneficiaries who stressed how they had felt listened to during the dispute resolution process.

·       Women leaders now took a more active part in the resolution process. Previously, they had been limited to interviewing or resolving disputes between women but they were now participating fully in all cases. While it cannot be said that there is complete equality between women and men leaders, notable progress has been made.

·       ADR members noted that the use of the NVC model allowed them to resolve disputes at a deeper level and find more sustainable solutions. They also made more effort to ensure that parties were comfortable with case resolutions, something they had treated as a mere formality before.

·       ADR cases and requests for advice from ADR members from the local community, IDP camps and remote villages have all increased, as has the number of cases referred to the ADR centres each month by the courts.

Social change

·       The NVC training has established the foundations for social change and produced a group of individuals who are determined to see such changes at a larger scale in their communities. Some trainees have started to reach out to their communities and IDP camps without the payment of incentives.

The report also outlines several lessons from the experience in Baidoa and recommendations for the future. These include:

·       Inner transformation requires people to bring to confront mental models and biases, which can trigger pain and/or anger. This requires an experienced trainer who can support the group at an appropriate pace.

·       Transformative change can only occur through sustained engagement over a long period, not through one-off trainings.

·       There is a need for a dynamic person like the ADR centre coordinator in Baidoa to maintain momentum between trainings.

·       The setup of the ADR centre is very important, with the one in Baidoa (a compound with one house for the men and one for the women) offering the ideal conditions for developing relationships between elders and women leaders.

·       Support from the Ministry of Justice is key.

·       Trainees sharing what they learned with others without the payment of incentives is a key indicator of success and sustainability.

Specific recommendations made in the report for Baidoa are to:

·       Organize visits from other ADR centres to Baidoa and travel for Baidoa elders and women leaders to share their experience with other leaders and develop a road map to duplicate the model in other centres.

·       Invite people, particularly youth, for NVC training at the ADR centre in order to expand the number of individuals committed to social change and increase diversity.

·       Introduce dispute participants to restorative practices and dialogue.

·       Institutionalize NVC training at a local university to build up a generation of NVC and social workers.

·       Provide NVC training for all ADR centres

The full report can be downloaded here: [insert link]

Our work in Baidoa has been funded by the European Union, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UN Peacebuilding Fund. For more on the ADR centre in Baidoa see here: https://stories.undp.org/a-young-woman-leads-in-dispute-resolution

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