StabilisingEnsuring compliance with decisions and achieving closure

In order for parties to a conflict to achieve lasting peace and closure, the decisions made on the path to resolution must be implemented and complied with. Stabilising requires restoring a sense of safety and trust between parties to conflict so that they comply with what they agreed and are able to move on with their lives. Achieving compliance and stability can be challenging, however, as parties are not always equally satisfied with the outcome of the resolution process and issues may resurface during the execution of the agreement or decision.

Why is this a fundamental dispute resolution practice?

A resolution that is implemented without careful consideration of compliance is unlikely to be sustainable in the long-term. Stabilising the relationship between parties who have just emerged from a conflict prevents new disagreements from arising by making transparent what the parties can expect from each other in the future. Agreements that both parties commit to and feel motivated to comply with – whether out of a desire for specific outcomes, a commitment to fairness, a sense of duty, or a fear of sanctions – are essential to this. 

What are the active ingredients of stabilising?

A fair resolution procedure with which parties are more likely to comply.

Transparency about the relationship between the parties going forward.

This includes transparency about their respective expectations, obligations, and risks.

Intrinsic motivation to comply.

Self-enforcing agreements, which remain in force so long as each party believes that he or she is better off continuing the agreement than he or she would be by ending it.

Self-enforcing agreements are, as their name suggests, enforced only through termination by the parties and not through third party intervention.

Mechanisms of compliance.

These include but are not limited to formal sanctions, reciprocation, imitation, positive reinforcement and oversight by the community. Reciprocity is most likely to induce compliance among parties with ongoing relationships and in close communities.

What are people actually doing to make this happen?

Parties are stabilising their agreements by making them transparent and complying with their terms. Explaining an agreement in the presence of interested third parties, or clearly documenting the agreement in writing can help increase the chances of compliance on both sides. 
Mediators are helping to make expectations between parties explicit and leveraging intrinsic motivations and external triggers to incentivise compliance with their agreements over time. 
Judges who are oriented towards problem-solving are monitoring the conduct of parties once an agreement or decision has been made and ensuring that the relationship remains stable over time. If necessary, they are enforcing agreements or decisions with formal sanctions.  
Innovators are finding creative ways to facilitate self-enforcing conflict resolution, resulting in agreements that do not require third party intervention to maintain or enforce. Apps and websites offering free contract templates may also help stabilise agreements by making it easier for parties to document their agreements in writing and follow up on them.
More about Uganda

What indicators can be used to monitor this practice?

Compliance with the agreement or decision
Achievement of desired outcomes in the short- and long-term

What makes stabilising difficult?

Behavioral barriers

Parties are less likely to comply with an agreement in the long-term if they feel that the outcome of a resolution process was imposed on them rather than negotiated, or if they feel that the resolution process itself was unfair. Resolution processes that are participatory, treat participants with dignity and respect, and involve a neutral and trustworthy authority are most likely to be experienced as fair.

Cost barriers

Written settlements, contracts, or judgments help stabilise agreements by making their terms transparent to the parties involved, but are often expensive to obtain. Informal compliance mechanisms, such as reciprocity, offer a less costly way of incentivising parties to fulfill their obligations. 

More Resources

  1. L. G. Telser, A Theory of Self-Enforcing Agreements, The Journal of Business (1980).
  2. Robert Cialdini and Noah Goldstein, Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity, Annual Review of Psychology (2004).
  3. Pietro Ortolani, Self-Enforcing Online Dispute Resolution, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (2016).