Another engrossing Works-in-Progress Conference wrapped up on Saturday with two presentations focusing on the challenges presented by conflicting cultural paradigms in our increasingly interconnected world. Mariana Hernandez-Crespo (St. Thomas, Minn.) made a passionate plea for the integration rather than assimilation of different cultures, the better to foster the multiplicity of ideas that spurs innovation. Recognizing the impossibility of truly seeing the world through another’s eyes, she argued that conflicts at the state level—such as those springing from bi-lateral investment treaties—should be resolved through a robust system of cross-cultural co-mediation.
Moving from the level of the state to the level of the family, Sukh Singh (Willamette) movingly described the continuing but evolving vitality of arranged marriage on the model practiced among modern Indians. In doing so, he evoked the different values that underlie social institutions in the West and in the emerging countries of the newly-developed world, with the primary American value of personal autonomy contrasted against the relational values of community and respect for hierarchy in other cultures. He suggested that customs such as arranged marriage can adapt to promote both sets of values.
This tension between the value of autonomy on the one hand and the values of community and respect for hierarchy on the other has been a theme of my research into dispute resolution in Ghana. Ghana has a deeply entrenched system of traditional dispute resolution, with a hierarchy of regional and local chiefs acting as customary arbitrators. That system is being forced to evolve, however, as Ghana cements its position as West Africa’s most stable democracy. From the abstract to my contribution:
[A]s Ghana reaches for the material gains of participation in modern commercial life, the wide sway of its customary adjudication is coming under increasing pressure. New legal developments have truncated the authority of traditional decision-makers. An overburdened court system, however, lacks the resources to fill the resulting adjudicative gaps. To solve the problem, Ghana is now experimenting with a system of quasi-public dispute resolution, including contractual arbitration and court-connected mediation.
Key to Ghana’s success will be its ability to integrate those two systems in a way that respects both the traditional values held dear by many Ghanaians and the concern for rule of law and private property that characterizes the move toward a liberal market democracy. The results of its dispute resolution experiment should provide important lessons, both for other emerging democracies and for the West, in how to successfully arrange marriages of process as well as marriages of individuals.
Last 5 posts by Paul Kirgis
- Cardozo Panel to Discuss Delaware Chancery Arbitration Scheme - February 4th, 2013
- From Neutral in Chief to Bargainer in Chief - December 21st, 2012
- Nitro-Lift Technologies v. Howard: Judicial Review and the Contractarian Model of Arbitration - December 10th, 2012
- Blankley on the Newest Class Arbitration Case to Reach the Supreme Court - December 8th, 2012
- Nitro-Lift Technologies v. Howard: Forum Selection and the FAA Savings Clause - December 7th, 2012