The Third Side: The Arbiter

Determining Disputed Rights

An Arbiter's Guide to the Beyond Intractability Website

  • Do you have a good sense of right and wrong? Are you unafraid of conveying this to others?
  • Are you more likely to give people an answer to their problem, rather than helping them find it for themselves?
  • Do you see the world in terms of rights and believe that someone is usually right or wrong in a conflict?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the above questions, then you may be an arbiter. This Web page is designed to provide arbiters with information about how to resolve disputes and promote justice.

Who are Arbiters?

In cases where parties refuse to compromise, or where basic rights are being violated, relying on mediation may be insufficient or inappropriate. Whereas a mediator can only suggest a solution, an arbiter (also called an "arbitrator") can decide what is right. The arbiter is a familiar role, embodied by the judge in the courtroom or the arbitrator in a business setting. More informally, teachers are abiters when they decide a dispute involving two students; parents frequently act as arbiters for their quarreling children, telling them that, "Sara can watch her TV show now, and Matt will get his turn in a half hour," for example. Managers also act as arbiters when they resolve conflicts between employees. In this informal sense, we are all potential arbiters.

For More Information

Much of the material on this user guide is drawn from Thanks to William Ury and Joshua Weiss for giving us permission to republish their material here.