RespectingTaking people seriously as human beings

When asked what contributed to their experience of injustice, parties to a crime or conflict often say that they felt disrespected. Respect is an attitude and can be communicated verbally, through body language and through willingness to listen. The essence of respecting is acknowledging the human dignity of the other party.

Why is this a fundamental dispute resolution practice?

Respect is an important prerequisite to information sharing and communication that builds understanding. Parties to a crime or conflict who do not feel respected are less likely to listen to or empathize with the other party. This makes it difficult for any of the individuals involved to make their needs heard and understood. Disrespectful treatment by justice system actors also tends to make people less likely to cooperate or view the outcome of the justice process as fair. 

What are the active ingredients of respecting?

Active listening and presence

Appropriate verbal and body language

What are people actually doing to make this happen?

Parties
Parties are showing respect for one another by listening actively, using appropriate language when they speak to one another, and demonstrating that they are present in the conversation through their body language. Depending on the cultural context, this may mean sustaining eye contact, tilting one’s head from side to side, or sitting up straight.
Parties
Mediators
Mediators ​are creating an environment that promotes information sharing and empathetic communication between the parties involved. This typically means building rapport with the parties individually before bringing them together and taking time to understand their respective needs. A meeting place that is conducive to respecting is one in which the parties feel dignified and safe to express themselves.
Mediators
Police officers and judges
Police officers, judges, and informal adjudicators are showing empathy and respect to parties to crime or conflict. Depending on the person’s role, this may mean listening to what they have to say, speaking to them in a way they understand, or showing compassion for their situation. In doing so, they are modeling what respectful communication looks like and stimulating the parties involved to interact respectfully as well.
Police officers and judges
Justice leaders
Justice leaders are creating the conditions for greater interpersonal justice in spaces where justice is done. This may mean minimizing hierarchy and exclusion - whether in the design of courtrooms or legal procedures. It also involves introducing processes that enable justice actors to work with people to resolve their conflicts, rather than doing things to or for them.
Justice leaders
Innovators
Innovators are creating systems that support mediators and adjudicators who demonstrate and facilitate respectful communication and allow them to bring their services to scale.
Innovators
More about Uganda

What indicators can be used to monitor this practice?

0%
Interpersonal justice
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Procedural justice

What makes respecting difficult?

Behavioral barriers

Respecting someone means finding a balance between accountability and support. This balance can be difficult to strike in practice. Too much accountability can translate into angry, punitive, stigmatising, or coercive treatment on the part of a justice system actor or a party to conflict. Too much support can translate into sympathetic, interventionist, or protective treatment. No matter how well-intentioned, neither of these approaches acknowledges the human dignity and potential of the parties involved.

More Resources

  1. Tom Tyler and E. Allan Lind, “Procedural Justice” in Handbook of Justice Research in Law (2002)
  2. Tom Tyler, “Procedural Justice: Why It Matters So Much,” Center for Court Innovation
  3. Jerald Greenberg and Robert Folger, “Procedural Justice, Participation, and the Fair Process Effect in Groups and Organizations” in Basic Group Processes (1983)
  4. Jason Colquitt, Jerald Greenberg, and Cindy Zapata-Phelan, What is Organizational Justice? A Historical Overview in Handbook of Organizational Research (2005)
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