Georgians still know little about alternatives to the court system in resolving commercial or civil disputes, but this trend is changing over time and interest in mediation and arbitration is growing as the benefits become apparent. These are some of the findings from recent research on public awareness of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADRs) in Georgia that were released today by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“By establishing mediation and arbitration as alternatives to the expensive headache of going to court, Georgia has expanded access to justice for both individuals and businesses,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “But if people are not aware of the opportunities, they might miss the chance to protect their rights in an affordable way. Our new study will help us spread the message that people have a choice.”

“The EU has been supporting the development of arbitration and mediation for many years now, as part of our wider assistance to the justice system and the private sector in Georgia,” said Catalin Gherman, Deputy Head of Cooperation Section at the EU Delegation Georgia. “Easy and diverse access to justice is vital for both citizens and commercial companies to protect their civil and economic interests.”

The research revealed that over 80 percent of Georgian citizens and businesses never heard of mediation. 70 percent of citizens and 54 percent of businesses have little or no understanding of arbitration. However, after receiving some additional information, more than half of both companies and citizens say they would choose mediation and arbitration over going to court if they had a dispute to resolve.

Those who already had experience with alternative ways of resolving disputes tend to be contented with the process and service. 90 percent of arbitration and 56 percent of mediation users assess them positively, noting that low fees and faster resolution are the advantages of both methods. The time spent on mediation if parties fail to settle is viewed as a shortcoming. As a disadvantage of arbitration, representatives of the private sector note that an arbitral decision cannot be appealed.

The research was conducted by the Georgian research company “Institute of Social Studies and Analysis” (ISSA) in 2019 and 2020. Its findings are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,500 people in nine cities of Georgia and online interviews with representatives of 1,255 private companies in different sectors.

Georgia adopted its Law on Mediation in 2019 after years of preparations and discussions supported by international partners, including the EU and UNDP. The Association of Mediators was established the same year aiming to support, regulate and train mediators and inform the public about mediation.

Arbitration in commercial disputes has been developing in Georgia for over a decade now, largely thanks to the joint efforts of the Georgian Government, the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), the business community and international partners. The Georgian International Arbitration Centre (GIAC) and the Georgian Association of Arbitrators (GAA) were set in motion in 2013. In 2020, with assistance from the EU and UNDP, the leading Georgian arbitration organizations signed a Code of Ethics, agreeing to comply with high standards of professionalism and ethical behaviour.  

The EU and UNDP are promoting Alternative Dispute Resolution as part of the EU’s wider programmes EU4Justice and EU4Business, contributing to justice reforms and private sector development in Georgia.    

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