‘Good Offices’ as a Peaceful Means of Settling Disputes
The ADR processes has gained significance worldwide to assist the courts to lower the burden of cases and in amicably resolving the disputes. They are efficient in peaceful settlements among the parties. The addition to already available dispute resolution mechanism, that is, courts is appropriate as it enables the parties to choose the mechanism best suited to their needs. Therefore, there are various options available to the parties such as mediation, conciliation, arbitration, Lok Adalat and Judicial settlement. ‘Good Offices’ is yet another attribute of the ADR process which can be used in amicably resolving the disputes.
The term ‘Good offices’ was used by ‘Justice Marshall’ for the very first time in Schooner Exchange vs. M’ Faddon (1812). The term is often mixed and interchanged with mediation but both the process are different facets of ADR mechanism. The expression ‘Good Offices’ is referred to a procedure whereby a neutral third party or a state on its own initiative or through request seeks through diplomatic means, bring the parties to the dispute together on the same platform either to start a direct negotiation among the parties or to find other methods for resolving the dispute. Good Offices can be international organizations, any one country or group of countries, which are not hostile and offer any two countries having dispute to settle the dispute peacefully. Good Offices may be very extensive in the services and facilities rendered but are slightly short of active participation in the process. The work of Good Offices ends or completes when the negotiation among the parties initiate. The Good Offices do not actively participate in the negotiation, it only brings the unwilling parties together for negotiation.
Article- 33 of the UN Charter states that any dispute that is likely to mention endanger the international peace and security should first be addressed through negotiation, mediation or other peaceful means, and states that the council can call on the parties to use such means. The phrases ‘other peaceful means’ or ‘council can call on parties’ specifies the inclusion and recognition of Good Offices in the ADR mechanism at international levels. Article- 33 of the UN Watercourses Convention mandates the parties to resolve the disputes by either seeking good offices or by requesting mediation or conciliation. The mechanism is most relevant for regional disputes as the dispute is likely to resolve faster than through judicial mechanism and also with the full autonomy of the parties and negligible interference of third party.
Good Offices distinct from Mediation
There is very thin line distinction between good offices and mediation. Both the terms are often used interchangeably and mixed. ‘Good Offices’ is a procedure whereby third party brings the conflicting parties together without participating in the negotiation whereas in ‘mediation’ the conflicting parties submit their disputes to a third party who facilitates the negotiation process and actively participates in the negotiation to form the terms of settlement. The mediator also adds his suggestions in resolving the disputes. In ‘Good Offices’ the third party only brings the disputing parties together for negotiation whereas in ‘mediation’ the third party conducts the negotiation. For instances, the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Mr. Wilson provided Good Offices to India and Pakistan which resulted the parties to reach an agreement to refer Kutch issue to Arbitral Tribunal. On the other hand, Soviet Union President, Kosygin mediated in the dispute between India and Pakistan which resulted in the conclusion of Tashkent agreement in 1966.
It’s clear from the above counts, that Good offices are important for the conflicting parties to bring them together to consider in resolving disputes. Good Offices is a influential initiation for unwilling parties to reach settlement peacefully.