A slow start for ADR in the Netherlands by Majlie de Puy Kamp

Majlie de Puy Kamp

The Dutch business world is slowly catching on to mediation. Recently two “fast-moving-consumer-goods” companies found themselves at odds once again over similarities between their products. Newspaper articles often don’t tell you everything that is going on – and that is exactly what the companies want. Mediation allows them to address and solve their issues under the radar without either of them suffering from negative publicity and skyrocketing legal costs. Most conflicts in this industry relate to copyright, trademark or intellectual property disputes. These types of disputes are never quite black and white, which is why both parties profit from a discussion out of the public eye. This shift towards mediation in the business world brings ADR the positive attention it needs in the Netherlands to gain its place among the traditional dispute resolution processes. Mediation is all too often being mistaken for a soft and almost hippie-like way of solving problems that has no place in formal business environments. There might be nothing like a mediated conflict between large multinationals to (hopefully) do away with that stigma.

In different areas, Holland is experimenting with ADR as well. Victim-offender mediation pilots for juveniles have been implemented in the larger courts in the country in November 2013. The Amsterdam court kicked-off the nation-wide program and has already had 26 cases in which victim and offender were brought together. If the mediation is successful, a judge can decide to drop the charges or lower the punishment. The Amsterdam pilot has found that offenders are more likely to stick to settlements they have come to in mediation than those laid upon them by a judge. These results are completely in line with the data and research on victim-offender mediation elsewhere.

The different pilots will focus on 400 juvenile misdemeanor cases up until the summer of 2014. The results will be discussed with the Ministry of Justice, after which can be decided how to further expand the use of ADR in criminal cases.

Though it has taken more time than necessary, the Netherlands is slowly opening up to ADR and getting used to the process being used in the different areas of life. Stay tuned for further developments…

© Conflict Change Consulting Ltd.  2014