Samuel Okoronkwo

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Conflict Avoidance Agreements: Do they actually work?

There are any number of reasons disputes can occur during construction projects. However, most of them can be placed into three categories (cost, time and quality) but, whatever the cause, the desire will always be to resolve these disputes as quickly and efficiently as possible.

An even greater desire is to avoid disputes entirely, which is not an impossible feat to achieve but one that requires meticulous pre-planning and the correct legal counsel prior to the project’s start date. Of course, disputes can also be dealt with effectively even after a project has started but this is when we enter the realm of project disruptions which could lead to further disputes.

Could Conflict Avoidance Agreements reduce the number of construction disputes?

The Conflict Avoidance Pledge

Hundreds of organisations have already signed the Conflict Avoidance Pledge, an agreement to avoid conflict during construction projects and prevent disputes from arising. The Conflict Avoidance Process (CAP) will involve a CAP professional – most likely an adjudicator or arbitrator – to make confidential and non-binding recommendations to the parties involved.

In essence, this CAP professional offers advice on how to resolve the conflict but still leaves the parties free to pursue traditional dispute resolution methods should they choose to. Signing the Conflict Avoidance Pledge is a public commitment to work collaboratively to avoid any conflict that could derail a project. However, since the process is non-binding, it cannot be monitored whether the parties abide by it.

So, this raises the question; do conflict avoidance agreements actually work? Many view an organisation’s choice to sign the pledge as clear intent to work collaboratively. Therefore they can have positive effects on projects and the relationships between those involved. There is also the argument that some bias could be created against those who chose to not sign the pledge.

Could clients be more inclined to work with organisations that have signed the pledge due to the belief that disputes are less likely to arise?

Will the pledge prevent disputes?

The truth is the Conflict Avoidance Pledge does not prevent disputes from arising, however it could reduce the number of them. The pledge acts as a foundation for a better, more collaborative project since those involved should be committed to having collaboration at the forefront of every decision. Of course, this works well in theory.

Prior to construction projects, and any tensions potential disputes can cause, it is easy enough to commit to a collaborative approach and process. However, at the moment disputes occur, the circumstances can vastly change a person’s or organisation’s approach to resolving them.

If you encounter a legal problem with your project or you would like to prepare for this possibility, the team at Mercantile Barristers is here to help. Our team of experienced professionals are ready to assist you with any legal issues you may face.

Moreover, if there is anything you would like to discuss regarding this article, feel free to message me directly.

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