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Arbitration vs. Conciliation: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 25, 2023
Arbitration is a formal process where a neutral third party decides a dispute, whereas conciliation involves a facilitator helping parties reach a voluntary agreement.

Key Differences

Arbitration involves a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, who makes a binding decision on a dispute. It is a formal process resembling a court proceeding, where parties present evidence and arguments. Conciliation, on the other hand, is more informal and collaborative. A conciliator helps parties discuss their issues and reach a mutually acceptable agreement, but does not make a binding decision.
In arbitration, the arbitrator's decision is usually final and legally binding, similar to a court judgment. This process often follows specific legal procedures and rules, and the arbitrator's role is similar to that of a judge. Conciliation, however, focuses on finding a compromise that satisfies all parties. The conciliator's role is to facilitate communication and suggest solutions, but the final decision rests with the parties involved.
Arbitration is often chosen for its legally binding nature and its resemblance to a judicial process, providing a definitive resolution to a dispute. It is typically faster and less formal than court proceedings, but more structured than other dispute resolution methods. Conciliation is preferred when parties seek to maintain or improve their relationship, as it fosters cooperation and understanding, aiming for a win-win solution rather than a verdict.
Arbitration processes are usually private and confidential, with limited opportunities for appeal. The arbitrator's expertise in the relevant field is a key factor in selecting this method. In contrast, conciliation is highly flexible, allowing parties to control the process and outcome. It emphasizes communication and mutual respect, often leading to creative and tailored solutions.
A key distinction in arbitration is its adversarial nature, where each party seeks to prove their case to the arbitrator. Conciliation, however, is inherently collaborative, with the conciliator fostering dialogue and understanding to help parties reach a consensus. This approach can preserve relationships and often results in more satisfactory outcomes for all involved.

Comparison Chart


Binding decision by arbitrator
Mutual agreement facilitated by conciliator


Formal and structured
Informal and flexible

Role of Third Party

Decision maker


Win-lose based on arbitrator's decision
Win-win, mutually agreeable solution

Relationship Between Parties

Often adversarial
Collaborative and conciliatory

Arbitration and Conciliation Definitions


Arbitration involves a third party making a binding decision on a conflict.
Arbitration helped them resolve the issue without going to trial.


Conciliation involves a third party assisting in dispute resolution.
Conciliation was used to find a compromise in the family dispute.


Arbitration is a process where a neutral party decides a dispute.
The contract dispute was resolved through arbitration.


Conciliation is an informal process aimed at conflict resolution.
The neighbors chose conciliation to address their boundary issues.


Arbitration is a method of resolving disputes outside of court.
They opted for arbitration to settle their financial disagreement.


Conciliation is a process where a facilitator helps parties resolve disputes.
Through conciliation, they amicably resolved their workplace conflict.


Arbitration is a formal dispute resolution process with an arbitrator's ruling.
The labor dispute was settled by arbitration.


Conciliation is a method for settling disputes by mutual agreement.
The business partners reached an agreement through conciliation.


Arbitration is a legal technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts.
The arbitration process was chosen to handle the commercial litigation.


Conciliation is a non-binding process to help disputing parties agree.
The community dispute was effectively managed through conciliation.


The process by which the parties to a dispute submit their differences to the judgment of an impartial person or group appointed by mutual consent or statutory provision.


To overcome the distrust or animosity of; appease.


The act or process of arbitrating.


To regain or try to regain (friendship or goodwill) by pleasant behavior.


A process through which two or more parties use an arbitrator or arbiter in order to resolve a dispute.


To make or attempt to make compatible; reconcile
Tried to conciliate the conflicting theories.


In general, a form of justice where both parties designate a person whose ruling they will accept formally. More specifically in Market Anarchist (market anarchy) theory, arbitration designates the process by which two agencies pre-negotiate a set of common rules in anticipation of cases where a customer from each agency is involved in a dispute.


To gain or try to gain someone's friendship or goodwill.


The hearing and determination of a cause between parties in controversy, by a person or persons chosen by the parties.


The process of bringing peace and harmony; the ending of strife.


(law) the hearing and determination of a dispute by an impartial referee agreed to by both parties (often used to settle disputes between labor and management)


(legal) A form of alternative dispute resolution, similar to but less formal than mediation, in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications and explore possible solutions.


The act of deciding as an arbiter; giving authoritative judgment;
They submitted their disagreement to arbitration


The act or process of conciliating; the state of being conciliated.
The house has gone further; it has declared conciliation admissible previous to any submission on the part of America.


The state of manifesting goodwill and cooperation after being reconciled;
There was a brief period of conciliation but the fighting soon resumed


Any of various forms of mediation whereby disputes may be settled short of arbitration


The act of placating and overcoming distrust and animosity


What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a formal process where a neutral third party makes a binding decision on a dispute.

What is conciliation?

Conciliation is an informal process where a facilitator helps parties to reach a voluntary agreement.

Can conciliation decisions be enforced legally?

No, conciliation agreements are not legally binding unless formalized into a contract.

How is an arbitrator chosen?

Arbitrators are typically chosen by mutual agreement of the parties or appointed by a court or institution.

Is conciliation a confidential process?

Yes, conciliation is usually a private and confidential process.

Can arbitration decisions be appealed?

Arbitration decisions are generally final with limited scope for appeal.

Is arbitration legally binding?

Yes, decisions made in arbitration are usually legally binding.

How is a conciliator selected?

Conciliators are often selected mutually by the parties or appointed by a dispute resolution organization.

Can arbitration be used in family disputes?

Yes, arbitration can be used in certain family disputes, especially regarding financial matters.

What types of disputes are suitable for arbitration?

Arbitration is often used for commercial, labor, and international disputes.

Is conciliation effective in commercial disputes?

Conciliation can be effective in commercial disputes, especially where ongoing relationships are important.

Can arbitration be conducted online?

Yes, online or virtual arbitration has become increasingly common.

What are the costs associated with arbitration?

Arbitration costs can include arbitrator fees, administrative fees, and legal expenses.

How does conciliation compare in cost to arbitration?

Conciliation is generally less expensive than arbitration due to its informal nature and shorter duration.

Is legal representation required in conciliation?

Legal representation is not required in conciliation, and parties often participate directly.

What is the duration of an arbitration process?

The duration of arbitration can vary, typically ranging from a few months to over a year.

When is conciliation preferred?

Conciliation is preferred in disputes where parties seek a collaborative resolution and wish to maintain relationships.

Can parties represent themselves in arbitration?

Yes, parties can represent themselves or choose to have legal representation in arbitration.

How long does conciliation usually take?

Conciliation is often quicker than arbitration, usually completed within weeks or a few months.

Is conciliation suitable for international disputes?

Conciliation can be used in international disputes, especially for its collaborative approach and flexibility.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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