constructive manner and via a process that is culturally sensitive
and considers the interests of all parties.
The CAB system consists of highly-structured bodies, generally
on three levels, and is comprised of volunteer members each of
whom is appointed by His Highness the Aga Khan for a three-year
term, with possible reappointment for one additional three-year
term. An international board (ICAB) oversees a national CAB (NCAB)
in each country, as well as reviewing appeals, coordinating international training programs and promoting best practices across the
NCABs. The NCABs in Canada and the United States set policy,
coordinate training for their members, lead dispute prevention
and inter-institutional collaboration efforts, conduct awareness-building activities within and outside the community, and monitor
performance indicators across the country. The NCABs in North
America oversee regional CABs (RCABs) who are chosen to reflect
the geographic, demographic, linguistic and cultural diversity of the
Ismaili community in that region and who serve as mediators in the
cases that are initiated in their regions. In Canada, for example, there
are five RCABs, for British Columbia, Edmonton, the Prairies, Ontario
and for Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. In North America and
elsewhere, most CAB members are non-lawyers, a deliberate composition that recognizes the complex nature of mediation cases and
the utility of analyzing issues from diverse perspectives.
CAB mediators receive extensive, initial and ongoing, state of
the art, cross-cultural training in ADR techniques. This training is
specifically designed to heed the competing individualistic and collectivist tensions in the cases that come to the CABs. Examples of
topics covered include the ethos of service, ethics in mediation, the
voice of the child in mediation and the importance of confidentiality. Training topics are evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure they
are up-to-date and reflective of best practices. Meticulous care is
taken to ensure that alternative justice does not degenerate into
inferior justice due to lack of proficiency or appropriate training.
KEY AREAS OF THE CAB’S WORK
The ethos underpinning the work of the CABs globally is a desire
and responsibility to foster harmony within the community, including maintaining harmony between disputing parties and their families.
This desire to foster harmony informs not only the manner in which
disputes are resolved, but also the scope of the CAB’s responsibilities.
The CAB focuses its efforts on dispute resolution, but those efforts
go beyond dispute resolution to include instilling a culture of dispute
prevention, helping to heal the emotional wounds of parties in dispute,
post-settlement evaluation, and training and structural support for
its membership. Here, we focus primarily on the non-binding dispute
resolution services offered by the CAB. These services constitute the
vast majority of CAB work worldwide.
Recognizing that the manner in which disputes are resolved
has a profound impact on an individual’s quality of life, the CAB’s
approach to mediation is guided by the following principles:
• Before mediating any dispute, the CAB must first
satisfy itself that the parties to the dispute have
come to the CAB voluntarily and out of their own
free will, and desire to have their disputes resolved
through the CAB system;
• The mediation is conducted by CAB members—
both men and women—who have received
appropriate training to ensure competent and
equitable handling of the matter;
• The mediation is conducted in accordance with
rules that are intended to assist in assuring the
appropriate standard of operation; and
• The duty of confidentiality to the parties must be
The CAB process is designed to operate in an equitable manner
(equity being an important Islamic ethical value) and thus is entirely
consistent with fundamental principles of natural justice and the
applicable law of the land. The CAB generally uses the term “
conciliation” for a process of mediation in which a neutral person assists
the parties in reaching their own settlement. The neutral person
does not have authority to impose a binding decision on the parties.
The process is voluntary and the parties may withdraw at any time.
Globally, CAB mediation is offered at no cost to the parties. In
Canada and the United States, a party’s initial and primary interaction is with the applicable RCAB chair. The RCAB Chair assists in
assessing incoming matters to ensure that the RCAB can assist
with each matter and that it falls within its jurisdiction. Before commencing mediation, both parties are required to sign a submission
form indicating their voluntary participation in and consent to the
mediation process. Parties are encouraged to seek independent
legal advice during the process. The RCAB Chair assigns each matter to one or more mediators, who are expected to declare promptly
if they have or likely may have any conflict of interest or perceptible
bias that could comprise the RCAB’s handling of the case, and to
abstain immediately from any dealings with the dispute.
The volunteer mediator or co-mediators help the parties reach
their own settlement and have no authority to make binding decisions or to give legal advice to the parties. CAB mediators apply
an interest-based approach. If a settlement is reached, it is typically documented by a settlement agreement, and the parties are
advised once more to seek independent legal advice before signing
this legally-binding agreement. Ultimately, enforcement depends
on the legal enforceability of a settlement agreement.
Post-Mediation Evaluation and Assistance
To determine the parties’ level of satisfaction with CAB services
and the durability of their settlement agreement, the CAB conducts a survey within six months after completion of a case. If
further assistance may be required, upon the consent of all parties
to the dispute, the settlement may be tweaked to ensure that the
agreement is optimal and implemented.
The CAB process seeks to help parties “bandage their wounds” or
heal, so as to overcome emotional wounds and resentment towards
the other party(ies), both of which detract from moving forward in
life with a positive outlook and fostering harmony in the community.
Post-mediation surveys also provide an opportunity to canvass