Alternative dispute resolution interventions are increasingly popular in environmental disputes, but insufficient work is being done to evaluate their overall effectiveness and much of the work that is being done is inadequate for the task. Existing evaluations tend to be post hoc and unsystematic, largely confined to the particular case with little or no theoretical engagement. To address these shortfalls, this thesis moulds nine deliberative democratic principles—reason, public good, respect, reflexivity, unboundedness, ecology, dynamism, plurality and reflection—into an evaluation framework. This framework is then systematically compared to three influential evaluation frameworks in the environmental management literature: Consensus Building and Complex Adaptive Systems, Collaborative Planning Evaluation, and the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution. This comparison determines and elaborates the value of the deliberative framework in three areas needed to evaluate the overall effectiveness of ADR interventions: conceptual coherence, engagement with complexity and applicability across a broad range of cases. Whilst each of the existing frameworks claims strength in one or more essential characteristics, they suffer from weaknesses or gaps revealed through comparison with the deliberative democratic framework.
My proposed framework reveals and responds to these gaps and weaknesses because it targets for evaluation assumptions that lie at the heart of ADR evaluation. ADR evaluation assumes that good collaborative processes generate valued dynamics such as mutual understanding, better relationships, and respectful communication. Therefore, such outcomes are not targeted for evaluation by existing frameworks. Conversely, the deliberative democratic framework views such dynamics as conditions for good processes and advances principles for facilitating their development. In so doing, it opens to scrutiny what other ADR evaluation frameworks do not examine, namely the pillars of good collaboration.
This research strengthens evaluation of alternative dispute resolution by furnishing a sound alternative to the current range of evaluation frameworks. It also furthers the development of dispute resolution theory and practice by providing a framework that can compare resolution processes across a variety of interventions.