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The Role of Courts in Safeguarding Environmental Rights in Kenya

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By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), Winner of Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021, ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021*

The preamble to the Constitution of Kenya recognises the importance of the environment and therefore calls for its respect, being the heritage of the Kenyan people, and also requires its sustenance for the benefit of future generations. In addition, it also spells out and guarantees the right of every person to a clean and healthy environment and the need to have the same respected and protected.36 Notably, scholars have pointed out that there is ‘considerable evidence that national courts are increasingly willing to apply international environmental obligations.’ It is in light of this that this section discusses the place of national courts in the pursuit of environmental justice and protection of environmental rights in Kenya.

The Preamble to the Constitution of Kenya places a duty on every person to conserve and sustainably manage the environment. Thus, every person has a constitutional duty to cooperate with State organs and other persons to protect and conserve the environment and ensure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources. The citizenry should not only cooperate but also actively participate in sustainable environmental and natural resources matters through seeking court’s intervention. Article 22(1) of the Constitution of Kenya guarantees the right of every person to institute court proceedings claiming that a right or fundamental freedom in the Bill of Rights has been denied, violated or infringed, or is threatened. Citizenry have a right of ensuring that their rights in relation to the environment are not violated, by way of litigation. This is also captured in the various statutes such as the Environmental Management and Coordination Act.

The Constitution also recognises the right of every person to a clean and healthy environment. The protection and promotion of environmental rights in Kenya is further reinforced by the constitutionally recognised Environment and Land Court established under the Environment and Land Court Act, 2011, enacted to give effect to Article 162(2) (b) of the Constitution; to establish a superior court to hear and determine disputes relating to the environment and the use and occupation of, and title to, land, and to make provision for its jurisdiction functions and powers, and for connected purposes. The overriding objective this Act is to enable the Court to facilitate the just, expeditious, proportionate and accessible resolution of disputes governed by this Act.

The Court has original and appellate jurisdiction to hear and determine all disputes in accordance with Article 162(2) (b) of the Constitution and with the provisions of this Act or any other law applicable in Kenya relating to environment and land. The Court is also empowered to hear and determine applications for redress of a denial, violation or infringement of, or threat to, rights or fundamental freedom relating to a clean and healthy environment under Articles 42, 69 and 70 of the Constitution. It is therefore clear that environmental rights in Kenya are well entrenched under the Constitution and statutes on environmental law. All that remains is taking measures geared towards ensuring that all persons get to enjoy these rights as envisaged under the law.

Pre-Constitution 2010 Era

EMCA was enacted to provide for the establishment of an appropriate legal and institutional framework for the management of the environment and related matters. The Act provides that in exercising the jurisdiction conferred upon it under the Act, the High Court is to be guided by the principles of sustainable development. Part XII section 125 of EMCA establishes the National Environment Tribunal (NET), which is charged with settling disputes that arises in matters provided for under the Act. NET is charged with hearing appeals arising from administrative decisions of committees mandated to enforce environmental standards.

Notably, dispute management procedures under EMCA require the active participation of NEMA, being the implementing agency, with any grievances being addressed by NET Tribunal as an appeal which can however be heard by the Environment and Land Court as the final port of call. The role of NEMA in the safeguarding environment as established under EMCA was well summarized in the case of Martin Osano Rabera & another v Municipal Council of Nakuru & 2 others [2018] eKLR in the following words: …… “NEMA is not just an investigator and a prosecutor. Its success cannot be measured in terms of successful investigations and prosecutions. It has a bigger mandate: to be the principal instrument of government and the people of Kenya in the implementation of all policies relating to the environment….”

Post-Constitution 2010 Era

The constitutionalisation of the role of courts in promotion and protection of environmental rights is a step that seeks to ensure that these rights are treated as any other human rights that are justiciable under the laws of Kenya. The Environment and Land Court Act, 2011 provides that in exercise of its jurisdiction under the Act, the Court should be guided by the principles of sustainable development. Access to courts is an important pillar in promoting environmental justice in Kenya. Courts have, however, been faced by a number of challenges that hinder people particularly local communities from vindicating their environmental rights. Although the Constitution of Kenya guarantees the right of every person to institute proceedings claiming that a right or fundamental freedom in the Bill of Rights has been denied, violated or infringed, or is threatened with no need to prove locus standi to institute the suit, there still lies other challenges hindering access to courts such as the geographical location, complexity of rules and procedure and the use of legalese.

There is also lack of information amongst the citizenry and ignorance of their rights as far as environmental rights are concerned. Uninformed people cannot make use of courts in fighting for their rights and thus, despite their recognition under the Constitution and other laws of Kenya, a lot still need to be done to achieve this full enjoyment of these rights for all. There is however a number of ways through which this can be addressed. It must however be pointed out that this cannot only be achieved by courts but they need the support of all stakeholders.

*This article is an extract from the Article: Securing Our Destiny through Effective Management of the Environment, (2020) Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development Volume 4(3), p. 1.  by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya). Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2022.

References

Muigua, K., Securing Our Destiny through Effective Management of the Environment, (2020) Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development Volume 4(3), p. 1.

 

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Review: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Journal, Volume 12(3), 2024

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The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Journal, Volume. 12, No.3, 2024 covers pertinent and emerging issues across all ADR mechanisms. This volume exposes our readers to a variety of salient topics and concerns in ADR including Building Peace in Africa, Public Policy as a Ground of Setting-Aside an Arbitral Award, Ethics, Integrity and Best Practice in Mediation, Accessing Justice in Kenya, Sports Arbitration, ESG Arbitration, Arbitration of Investor-State Dispute in Kenya, Article 159(2) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and issuance of interim measures by Arbitral Tribunals. The ADR Journal is a publication of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Kenya Branch. It provides a platform for scholarly debate and in-depth investigations into both theoretical and practical questions in Alternative Dispute Resolution.

The journal is edited by Professor of Law at the University of Nairobi, Faculty of Law Hon Prof. Kariuki Muigua, a distinguished law scholar, an accomplished mediator and arbitrator with a Ph.D. in law from the University of Nairobi and widespread training and experience in both international and national commercial arbitration and mediation. Prof. Muigua is a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb)- Kenya chapter and also a Chartered Arbitrator. He is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague. He also serves as a member of the National Environment Tribunal. He has served as the Chartered Institute of Arbitrator’s (CIArb- UK) Regional Trustee for Africa from 2019 -2022.

In the paper “Building Peace in Africa through Alternative Dispute Resolution”  Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua critically discusses the role of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms in peace building in Africa. The paper argues that ADR mechanisms can play a fundamental role in building peace in Africa. The paper further posits that ADR mechanisms are able to enhance sustainable peace in Africa due to their focus on reconciliation and restorative justice. It proposes solutions towards building peace in Africa through ADR.

In “the Emergence of the International Commercial Court: A Threat to Arbitration of Investor-State Dispute in Kenya” Marion Injendi Wasike and Dr. Kenneth W. Mutuma argue that the proliferation of international commercial courts, including their introduction in Kenya, necessitates a thorough analysis of their implications on arbitration’s role in investor-state disputes. By juxtaposing these emerging judicial entities against traditional arbitration paradigms, the discussion aims to unravel the complexities and potential shifts in dispute resolution preferences, highlighting the balance between innovation in legal adjudication and the sustenance of arbitration’s revered position in the international legal order.

Kamau Karori SC, MBS in “Striking a Balance: A Delicate Dance Between Sanctity and Scrutiny” notes that the continuing debate —between upholding the inviolability of arbitral awards and judicial intervention in cases of egregious injustice points to the need for delicate balancing between non-interference and the need to correct unmistakably unjust awards. The urgency of this discourse is informed by the need to prevent consumers or potential consumers of arbitration services opting to exclude arbitration clauses due to perceived deficiencies. The article seeks to navigate the genesis of the debate, delicately dissect the different perspectives, and draw comparisons with global practices.

The article “Reforming Kenya’s Law on Probation and Aftercare Services to Promote Alternative Dispute Resolution” by Michael Sang engages in a comprehensive exploration of Kenya’s Probation of Offenders Act within the context of the growing role of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) principles in the nation’s criminal justice system. Drawing inspiration from international legal instruments such as “The Beijing Rules,” “Bangkok Rules,” and “Tokyo Rules,” the study evaluates the Act’s provisions, strengths, and limitations. It concludes with a call for thoughtful reforms that align Kenya’s criminal justice system with international standards, emphasizing a balanced and compassionate approach to justice.

The “Upholding Ethics, Integrity and Best Practice in Mediation” by Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua, OGW critically discusses the need for standardization of mediation practice in Kenya by adopting best practices. It examines some of the challenges facing mediation practice in Kenya. It is also explores measures adopted towards fostering best practices in mediation at both the global and national level. The paper further suggests recommendations aimed at upholding ethics, integrity and best practice in mediation. In “Exploring the Role of Mediation in Promoting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Fostering Economic Growth in Kenya” Atundo Wambare offers an in-depth analysis of the use of mediation in promoting the growth of small and medium enterprises (SME’s). He makes recommendations on how best mediation can be harnessed as a tool for economic growth in Kenya.

James Njuguna and Nyamboga George Nyanaro in “Compulsory Resolution or Autonomy Erosion? The Debate on Mandatory Sports Arbitration delve into the contentious issue of mandatory sports arbitration, questioning its role as a potential future pathway for dispute resolution. Their research examines the implications of compulsory arbitration on athletes’ autonomy, juxtaposing it with the benefits of expedited dispute resolution.

Paul Ngotho in “Constitution of Kenya 2010 Article 159.2.(c): Ancestry, Anatomy, Efficacy & Legacy” traces the rather odd origin and everlasting effect of the often-cited Article 159.2.(c) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. It acknowledges the central role played by two members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Kenya Branch, quietly and privately, away from the mainstream constitution making process. One of them chairman of the Branch, the other the Minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs.

David Onsare in “Navigating The ESG Maze: Emerging Trends in Arbitration and Corporate Accountability” embarks on a timely exploration of the dynamic interplay between Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors and arbitration, a field gaining critical importance in the realm of corporate accountability. By offering a comprehensive view of the complexities and practical implications of ESG in arbitration, the article serves as a crucial guide for legal professionals navigating the evolving landscape of corporate responsibility and arbitration. In “Public Policy as a Ground of Setting-Aside an Arbitral Award: Musings on the Centurion Engineers Civil Appeal Judgment”

Ibrahim Kitoo argues a case for upholding of public policy as a ground for the nonrecognition, non-enforcement and setting aside of an arbitral award in cases where to recognise and enforce such awards proves to be a clear violation of the law and against the public good. Juvenalis Ngowi in “Arbitral Tribunals: Do they have the power to issue interim measures during the proceedings?” discusses the powers of the Arbitral Tribunal to grant such orders and examines some procedural rules which empower arbitrators to issue such orders, the scope of those powers, and the factors to be considered when granting interim measures in the arbitral proceedings.

In “Examining the Efficacy of Mediation as A Tool for Accessing Justice in Kenya: Opportunities, Challenges, and Future Perspectives” Murithi Antony undertakes a thorough examination of mediation as a form of ADR in the Kenyan context. He identifies opportunities arising from the integration of mediation into the country’s legal system and explores barriers impeding its widespread adoption. The article concludes with a resounding call to action for all stakeholders to champion the use of mediation collaboratively and proactively, given its proven efficacy in dispute resolution.

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Way Forward in Applying Collaborative Approaches Towards Conflict Management

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By Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, C.Arb, FCIArb is a Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution at the University of Nairobi, Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration, Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Respected Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Top Natural Resources Lawyer, Highly-Regarded Dispute Resolution Expert and Awardee of the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya by H.E. the President of Republic of Kenya. He is the Academic Champion of ADR 2024, the African ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, ADR Practitioner of the Year in Kenya 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and Author of the Kenya’s First ESG Book: Embracing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) tenets for Sustainable Development” (Glenwood, Nairobi, July 2023) and Kenya’s First Two Climate Change Law Book: Combating Climate Change for Sustainability (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Achieving Climate Justice for Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024) and Actualizing the Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment (Glenwood, Nairobi, March 2024)*

It is necessary to embrace and utilize collaborative approaches in managing conflicts. These techniques include mediation, negotiation, and facilitation. These mechanisms are effective in managing conflicts since they encourage parties to embrace and address disagreements through empathy and listening towards mutually beneficial solutions. Collaborative approaches also have the potential to preserve relationships, build trust, and promote long term positive change. They also ensure a win-win solution is found so that everyone is satisfied which creates the condition for peace and sustainability. These approaches are therefore ideal in managing conflicts. It is therefore important to embrace collaborative approaches in order to ensure effective management of conflicts.

In addition, it is necessary for third parties including mediators and facilitators to develop their skills and techniques in order to enhance the effectiveness of collaborative approaches towards conflict management. For example, it has correctly been observed that mediators and facilitators should listen actively and empathetically in order to assist parties to collaborate towards managing their dispute. Therefore, when a dispute arises, the first step should involve listening to all parties involved with an open mind and without judgment. This should entail active listening, which means paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues and acknowledging the emotions and perceptions involved.

It has been observed that by listening empathetically, a third party such as a mediator of facilitator can understand each person’s perspective and start to build a foundation for resolving the conflict through collaboration. In addition, while collaborating towards conflict management, it is necessary to encourage and help parties to focus on interests and not positions. It has been pointed out that focusing positions can result in a standstill which can delay or even defeat the conflict management process. However, by identifying and addressing the underlying interests parties can find common ground and collaborate towards coming up with creative solutions towards their conflict.

Mediators and facilitators should also assist parties to look for areas of agreement or shared goals. Identifying a common ground can build momentum and create a positive environment for resolving the conflict. Further, in order to ensure the effectiveness of collaborative approaches in conflict management, it is necessary to build strong collaboration. It has been asserted that strong collaboration can be achieved by establishing a shared purpose, cultivating trust among parties, encouraging active participation by all parties, and promoting effective communication.

Strong collaboration enables parties to develop trust between and among themselves and strengthen communication channels between the various parties. It also helps to generate inclusive solutions that arise from wider stakeholders’ views. Therefore while applying collaborative approaches, it is necessary for parties to foster strong collaboration by identifying common goals, building trust, ensuring that all stakeholders are involved, and communicating effectively in order to come up with win-win outcomes.

Finally, while embracing collaborative approaches in conflict management, it is necessary for parties to consider seeking help from third parties if need arises. For example, negotiation is always the first point of call whenever a conflict arises whereby parties attempt to manage their conflict without the involvement of third parties. It has been described as the most effective collaborative approach towards conflict management since it starts with an understanding by both parties that they must search for solutions that satisfy everyone.

It enables parties to a dispute to come together to openly discuss the issue causing tension, actively listen to each other, and come up with mutually satisfactory solutions. However, it has been correctly observed that negotiation may fail especially if the conflict is particularly complex or involves multiple parties due to challenges in collaborating. In such circumstances, where negotiation fails, parties should consider resorting to other collaborative approaches such as mediation and facilitation where they attempt to manage the conflict with the help of a third party. A mediator or facilitator can assist parties to collaborate and continue with the negotiations and ultimately break the deadlock.

*This is an extract from Kenya’s First Clean and Healthy Environment Book: Actualizing the Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024) by Hon. Prof.  Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution, Senior Advocate of Kenya, Chartered Arbitrator, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya), African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Africa ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, Member of National Environment Tribunal (NET) Emeritus (2017 to 2023) and Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration nominated by Republic of Kenya and Academic Champion of ADR 2024. Prof. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Prof. Kariuki Muigua teaches Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law, The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP) and Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Prof. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates and Africa Trustee Emeritus of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2019-2022. Prof. Muigua is a 2023 recipient of President of the Republic of Kenya Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) Award for his service to the Nation as a Distinguished Expert, Academic and Scholar in Dispute Resolution and recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Band 1 in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2024 and was listed in the Inaugural THE LAWYER AFRICA Litigation Hall of Fame 2023 as one of the Top 50 Most Distinguished Litigation Lawyers in Kenya and the Top Arbitrator in Kenya in 2023.

References

Bercovitch. J., ‘Conflict and Conflict Management in Organizations: A Framework for Analysis.’ Available at https://ocd.lcwu.edu.pk/cfiles/International%20Relations/EC/IR403/Conflict.ConflictManagementinOrga nizations.pdf (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Bercovitch. J., ‘Mediation Success or Failure: A Search for the Elusive Criteria.’ Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 7, p 289.

Bloomfield. D., ‘Towards Complementarity in Conflict Management: Resolution and Settlement in Northern Ireland,’ Journal of Peace Research., Volume 32, Issue 2.

Burrell. B., ‘The Five Conflict Styles’ Available at https://web.mit.edu/collaboration/mainsite/ modules/module1/1.11.5.html (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Demmers. J., ‘Theories of Violent Conflict: An Introduction’ (Routledge, New York, 2012).

Diana. M., ‘From Conflict to Collaboration’ Available at https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/conflict-collaboration-beyond-projectsuccess-1899 (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Food and Agriculture Organization., ‘Collaborative Conflict Management for Enhanced National Forest Programmes (NFPs)’ Available at https://www.fao.org/3/i2604e/i2604e00.pdf (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

International Organization for Peace Building., ‘Natural Resources and Conflict: A Path to Mediation.’ Available at https://www.interpeace.org/2015/11/naturalresources-and-conflict-a-path-to-mediation/ (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Isenhart. M.W., & Spangle. M., ‘Summary of “Collaborative Approaches to Resolving Conflict” ‘ Available at https://www.beyondintractability.org/bksum/isenhart-collaborative (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Kaushal. R., & Kwantes. C., ‘The Role of Culture and Personality in Choice of Conflict Management Strategy.’ International Journal of Intercultural Relations 30 (2006) 579– 603.

Leeds. C.A., ‘Managing Conflicts across Cultures: Challenges to Practitioners.’ International Journal of Peace Studies, Volume 2, No. 2, 1997.

May. E., ‘Collaborating Conflict Style Explained In 4 Minutes’ Available at https://www.niagara institute.com/blog/collaborating-conflict-style/ (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Miroslavov. M., ‘Mastering the Collaborating Conflict Style In 2024’ Available at https://www.officernd.com/blog/collaborating-conflictstyle/#:~:text=It’s%20one%20of%20the%20strat egies,their%20underlying%20needs %20and%20interests. (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Muigua. K & Kariuki. F., ‘ADR, Access to Justice and Development in Kenya.’ Available at http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/ADR-access-tojustice-and-development-inKenyaRevised-version-of-20.10.14.pdf (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Muigua. K., ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice in Kenya.’ Glenwood Publishers Limited, 2015.

Muigua. K., ‘Reframing Conflict Management in the East African Community: Moving from Alternative to ‘Appropriate’ Dispute Resolution.’ Available at https://kmco.co.ke/wpcontent/uploads/2023/06/ Reframing-ConflictManagement-in-the-East-African-CommunityMoving-from-Alternative-toAppropriate-Dispute-Resolution (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Muigua. K., ‘Resolving Conflicts through Mediation in Kenya.’ Glenwood Publishers Limited, 2nd Edition., 2017.

Quain. S., ‘The Advantages & Disadvantages of Collaborating Conflict Management’ Available at https://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantagesdisadvantages-collaborating-conflict-management-36052.html (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Samuel. A., ‘Is the Collaborative Style of Conflict Management the Best Approach?’ Available at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/collaborative-style-conflictmanagement-best-approach-samuel-ansah (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

United Nations., ‘Land and Conflict’ Available at https://www.un.org/en/landnatural-resources-conflict/pdfs/GN_ExeS_Land%20and%20Conflict.pdf (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Weiss. J., & Hughes. J., ‘Want Collaboration?: Accept—and Actively Manage— Conflict’ Available at https://hbr.org/2005/03/want-collaboration-accept-andactively-manage-conflict (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

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Opportunities and Challenges of Collaborative Conflict Management

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By Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, C.Arb, FCIArb is a Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution at the University of Nairobi, Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration, Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Respected Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Top Natural Resources Lawyer, Highly-Regarded Dispute Resolution Expert and Awardee of the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya by H.E. the President of Republic of Kenya. He is the Academic Champion of ADR 2024, the African ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, ADR Practitioner of the Year in Kenya 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and Author of the Kenya’s First ESG Book: Embracing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) tenets for Sustainable Development” (Glenwood, Nairobi, July 2023) and Kenya’s First Two Climate Change Law Book: Combating Climate Change for Sustainability (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Achieving Climate Justice for Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024) and Actualizing the Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment (Glenwood, Nairobi, March 2024)*

One of the key collaborative approaches that can be applied in conflict management is mediation. Mediation has been defined as a method of conflict management where conflicting parties gather to seek solutions to the conflict, with the assistance of a third party who facilitates discussions and the flow of information, and thus aiding in the process of reaching an agreement.

Mediation is usually a continuation of the negotiation process since it arises where parties to a conflict have attempted negotiations, but have reached a deadlock. Parties therefore involve a third party known as a mediator to assist them continue with the negotiations and ultimately break the deadlock. A mediator does not have the power to impose a solution upon the parties but rather facilitates communication, promotes understanding, focuses the parties on their interests, and uses creative problem solving to enable the parties to reach their own agreement.

Some of the core values and principles guiding mediation as a collaborative approach towards conflict management include impartiality, empathy, valued reputation, and confidentiality. It has also been pointed out that mediation has certain attributes which include informality, flexibility, efficiency, confidentiality, party autonomy and the ability to promote expeditious and cost effective management of dispute which makes it an ideal mechanism for managing disputes.

Mediation is an effective mechanism that can foster collaboration due to its potential to build peace and bring people together, binding them towards a common goal. Mediation can also foster effective management of conflicts by building consensus and collaboration. It has been argued that mediation can enhance collaboration towards conflict management due to its emphasis on the need for a mediator who listen to the wants, needs, fears, and concerns of all sides. Therefore, for mediation to be effective in fostering collaboration, the approach must be mild and non-confrontational because the goal is to make all parties feel comfortable expressing their views and opinions.

Another key collaborative approach towards conflict management is negotiation. It has been defined as an informal process that involves parties to a conflict meeting to identify and discuss the issues at hand so as to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution without the help of a third party. Negotiation is one of the most fundamental methods of managing conflicts which offers parties maximum control over the process66. It aims at harmonizing the interests of the parties concerned amicably. Negotiation has been described as the process that creates and fuels collaboration.

Negotiation fosters collaboration since it involves all parties sitting down together, talking through the conflict and working towards a solution together. Negotiation has been described as the most effective collaborative approach towards conflict management since it starts with an understanding by both parties that they must search for solutions that satisfy everyone. It enables parties to a dispute to come together to openly discuss the issue causing tension, actively listen to each other, and come up with mutually satisfactory solutions. If negotiation fails, parties may resort to other collaborative approaches such as mediation and facilitation where they attempt to manage the conflict with the help of a third party.

Facilitation is another key collaborative approach towards conflict management. Facilitation entails a third party known as a facilitator who helps parties to a conflict to understand their common objectives and achieve them without while remaining objective in the discussion. A facilitator assists conflicting parties in achieving consensus on any disagreements so that they have a strong basis for future action.

It has been pointed out that facilitation is effective in fostering collaboration in conflict management particularly in conflicts which are complex in nature or those that involve multiple parties. In such conflicts, it is necessary to seek outside help from a neutral third party to facilitate the discussion as parties work towards mutually acceptable outcomes.

Applying collaborative approaches towards conflict management offers several advantages. It has been pointed out that collaborating results in mutually acceptable solutions. Such solutions can therefore be effective and long lasting negating the likelihood of conflicts reemerging in future. Collaborating signifies joint efforts, gain for both parties and integrated solutions arrived at by consensual decisions.

Collaborating is also very effective when it is necessary to build or maintain relationships since it focuses on the needs and interests of all parties in a dispute. It has been observed that collaborative approaches emphasize trust-building, open communication, and empathizing with each other’s perspectives which goes beyond resolving conflicts to facilitate deeper understandings of each other. Collaborative approaches can therefore lead to better interpersonal connections.

Collaborating can also result in constructive decision-making since encouraging active engagement and open dialogue helps others think outside of the box and explore innovative paths towards conflict management. Further, by encouraging the participation and involvement of all stakeholders, collaboration ensures that everyone feels heard, valued and understood which is very essential in managing conflicts.

In addition, collaborating sets the tone for future conflict resolutions since it gives those involved the shared responsibility to resolve their problems. However, collaborative approaches towards conflict management have also been associated with several drawbacks. For example, it has been observed that collaborative approaches may not be easy to implement since they involve a lot of effort to get an actionable solution. It has been observed that thorough discussions, active participation, and exploring multiple perspectives as envisaged by collaborative approaches take time.

Collaborating may therefore require patience and dedication to ensure all voices are heard and meaningful resolutions are reached. Achieving consensus through collaborative approaches can also be difficult since conflicting opinions, varying conflict goals, and emotional variables can make the consensus-building process challenging and time-consuming. As a result of these challenges, it has been asserted that collaborative approaches towards conflict management are frequently the most difficult and time-consuming to achieve.

Further, it has been argued that over use of collaboration and consensual decision-making may reflect risk aversion tendencies or an inclination to defuse responsibility. Despite these challenges, collaborative approaches towards conflict management are ideal in ensuring win-win and long lasting outcomes. It is therefore necessary to embrace and apply collaborative approaches towards conflict management.

*This is an extract from Kenya’s First Clean and Healthy Environment Book: Actualizing the Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024) by Hon. Prof.  Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution, Senior Advocate of Kenya, Chartered Arbitrator, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya), African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Africa ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, Member of National Environment Tribunal (NET) Emeritus (2017 to 2023) and Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration nominated by Republic of Kenya and Academic Champion of ADR 2024. Prof. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Prof. Kariuki Muigua teaches Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law, The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP) and Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Prof. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates and Africa Trustee Emeritus of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2019-2022. Prof. Muigua is a 2023 recipient of President of the Republic of Kenya Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) Award for his service to the Nation as a Distinguished Expert, Academic and Scholar in Dispute Resolution and recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Band 1 in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2024 and was listed in the Inaugural THE LAWYER AFRICA Litigation Hall of Fame 2023 as one of the Top 50 Most Distinguished Litigation Lawyers in Kenya and the Top Arbitrator in Kenya in 2023.

References

Bercovitch. J., ‘Conflict and Conflict Management in Organizations: A Framework for Analysis.’ Available at https://ocd.lcwu.edu.pk/cfiles/International%20Relations/EC/IR403/Conflict.ConflictManagementinOrga nizations.pdf (Accessed on 01/03/2024).

Bercovitch. J., ‘Mediation Success or Failure: A Search for the Elusive Criteria.’ Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 7, p 289.

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