Mediation and Conflict Resolution – The Bhutan Experience [Register Now!]

Oct 13, 2019 | Upcoming Workshops and Events

SMP Talk: 24 October 2019

The “Dignity-Centric” Model of Dispute Resolution

Join us as a founding member of Bhutan’s first and only law school discusses the Bhutan model of conflict resolution and how that informs the teaching of ADR model in a country steeped in the practice of customary legal norms.

Presented by Professor Stephan Sonnenberg

Stephan Sonnenberg is a founding member of the faculty at Bhutan’s first (and only) law school, the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law (JSW Law), which opened its doors to the first batch of law students in 2017. JSW Law’s mandate is to teach Bhutan’s future lawyers in a way that embraces and builds upon the country’s customary and traditional norms of dispute resolution. If successful, JSW Law’s first batch of graduating students will consider themselves to be both lawyers as well as catalysts for “Gross National Happiness,” Bhutan’s holistic approach to its’ national development. Prior to teaching at JSW Law, Stephan taught in clinical programmes of both Stanford & Harvard Law Schools in the US.

Stephan will be sharing on his experiences in Bhutan. Bhutan’s formal justice system is only six years older than the country of Singapore itself. But while Bhutan’s formal justice system may be only a few decades old, the concept of “justice” in Bhutan is as old as the hills. Due to Bhutan’s unique history, justice prior to the creation of the formal justice system was largely administered at the local level, by village elders, and premised on customary legal norms. With the ntroduction of a formal justice system, however, and its reinforcement in 2008 as the result of Bhutan’s transition from monarchy to constitutional democracy, these dispute resolution traditions are currently at risk of dying out. Based on an ongoing two-year research project to document evolving understandings of justice—and dispute resolution—in rural Bhutanese communities, he will describe for his audience a “dignity-centric” model of dispute resolution which was traditionally practiced in Bhutanese communities. Stephan will describe how that model, if it were to be taught formally, might require an emphasis on different skillsets, bases of knowledge, and vision than would a standard (perhaps “western” or “globalized”?) mediation curriculum.