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The Nature of Disputes in Carbon Markets

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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 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) and Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024)*

The growth of carbon markets has resulted in multiplicity of disputes in the area. For example, disputes in carbon markets can arise because of non-compliance of rules for carbon market cooperation and greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations. Further, it has been contended that the integrity of carbon markets depends in large part on the reliability of carbon accounting and this requires information about an entity’s emissions and offsets to be genuine, precise and accurate. However, there are several challenges that make carbon accounting a difficult exercise, which contributes to increased risk of disputes.

It has been noted that such challenges include the lack of a credible and consistent method of calculating both emissions produced by a business, and emissions avoided or stored by an abatement project; the lack of a standardised emissions data collection procedure across entities and sectors, which is often done manually and is error-prone; inconsistencies in defining the scope of carbon accounting for example whether and how much upstream and downstream supply chain emissions are included; and the complex and heterogenous taxonomy of carbon accounting where the terminology commonly used to describe emissions and offsets lacks a universally recognised set of definitions.

It has been contended that the lack of clarity in carbon accounting practices is ripe for disputes. Carbon accounting practices lack a universally accepted standard, leading to a fragmented landscape of methodologies and reporting frameworks. This lack of clarity may lead to exposure to claims of greenwashing, misleading or deceptive conduct and, contractual disputes regarding the proper value and/or veracity of carbon allowances and carbon offsets. It has been noted that the absence of credible standardization creates confusion, making it challenging to compare emissions data between organizations or across industries.

Additionally, it increases the risk of greenwashing, where organizations may engage in misleading or exaggerated claims about their environmental performance. Such actions could result in disputes in carbon markets. It has also been noted that carbon markets are associated with certain risks which could potentially result in disputes.

These risks include the integrity risk which refers to possibilities that investors are influenced by misleading information when buying and selling carbon products, which also occur when companies abandon honest and credible trading strategies under imperfect regulation; the vulnerability risk which means incomplete infrastructures and imperfect systems, which make carbon markets susceptible to internal and external shocks; market abuse risk where dominant or influential institutions engage in practices such as insider trading, price manipulation, and other unethical practices; and liquidity risk which reflects certain factors including the number of carbon products and marketization degree that affect confidences of market participants.

It has been asserted that some of these risks are already being transmitted to participants, including compliance entities, institutions, and individuals creating the likelihood of disputes in carbon markets. In addition, it has been opined that while the growth in carbon markets and market participants generates opportunities for much needed emissions reductions, it also requires participants to navigate regulatory and political risks. For example, a participant seeking to take advantage of cross-border trading opportunities may be subject to regulatory action by multiple states as well as inter-state bodies.

It has been observed that some governments have decided to cancel emissions markets without notice following a change in administration, while others have limited the use of certain types of compliance units in their jurisdiction, or taken other measures that affect the value of compliance units, potentially with the aim of enhancing environmental integrity. Such actions by states could result in disputes with investors trading in carbon markets since they transform what was once a freely tradable commodity into a stranded asset.

From the foregoing, it is evident that carbon markets are susceptible to disputes. It has been pointed out that carbon disputes often turn on issues common to other contractual disputes. These issues include commodity non-delivery, breach of covenants or warranties, failure to fulfil conditions precedent, disputes over title or security among others. Further, it has been pointed out that distinctive elements of such disputes include the nature of the commodity, the carbon crediting project cycle, and the application of international climate standards.

In addition, the project cycle itself can also generate disputes such as those concerning project registration or credit issuance. It has also been noted that carbon disputes are not limited to carbon contracts themselves but extend to the full scope of disputes concerning the underlying infrastructure projects undertaken to generate emission reductions, potentially resulting in commercial or investment arbitration proceedings.

Disputes are undesirable in carbon markets and can hinder the effective functioning of carbon markets and slow down the progress towards confronting climate change. It has been argued that carbon markets can be a powerful tool to help advance carbon justice. By entering carbon markets, all countries can advance their socioeconomic development while transitioning to a low-carbon economy in a cost-effective way that puts a price on carbon, allows for carbon trading, and stimulates new market opportunities for companies. It is therefore necessary to effectively manage disputes in carbon markets in order to strengthen the global response towards climate change and foster Sustainable Development.

*This is an extract from the Article: Managing Disputes in Carbon Markets, Available at: https://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Managing-Disputes-in-Carbon-Markets.pdf (25th February 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. 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

Chen. B., Yuan. K., & Wen. X., ‘The Legal Governance of the Carbon Market: Challenges and Application of Private Law in China’ Available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17583004.2023.2288591 (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

Climate Change (Amendment) Act, 2023., Laws of Kenya, Government Printer, Nairobi.

Climate Change (Amendment) Act, 2023., Laws of Kenya, S 2, Government Printer, Nairobi.

Darne. A., ‘International Carbon Disputes – How can they be resolved through Arbitration?’ Available at https://www.pslchambers.com/article/international-carbon-disputes-how-can-they-be-resolvedthrough arbitration/#:~:text=Arbitration%20has%20played%20a%20vital,issues%20be%20resolved%20through% 20ADR (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, No. 8 of 1999, Laws of Kenya, Government Printer, Nairobi.

ESG Investor., ‘Greater Scope for Carbon Markets Legal Action in Asia’ Available at https://www.esginvestor.net/greater-scope-for-carbon-markets-legal-action-in-asia/ (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

ESG., ‘Understanding the Challenges and Risks of Carbon Accounting: Implications for Organizations’ Available at https://empoweredsystems.com/blog/understanding-the-challenges-and-risks-of-carbon accounting-implications-fororganizations/#:~:text=Carbon%20accounting%20practices%20lack%20a,bet ween%20organizations%20o r%20across%20industries. (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

Green Arbitrations., ‘Emissions Trading: What Role will Arbitration Play?’ Available at https://www.greenerarbitrations.com/news/emissions-trading-what-role-will-arbitration-play (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

International Emissions Trading Association., ‘European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)’ Available at https://ieta.b-cdn.net/wpcontent/uploads/2023/09/IETA_TradingDocuments_ETMA_Sched 23A3B_v4.0.pdf (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

Kwan. E., Nagra. S., Zou. A., ‘Dispute Resolution in Carbon Markets’ Available at https://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2023/09/16/dispute-resolution-in-carbon-markets/ (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

Minas. S., ‘COP26 Created New Carbon Market Rules: How Will Arbitration Respond?’ Available at https://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2022/01/23/cop26-created-new-carbon-market-ruleshow-will-arbitration-respond/ (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

Moses, ‘The Principles and Practice of International Commercial Arbitration’ 2nd Edition, 2017, Cambridge University Press.

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

Muigua. K., ‘Promoting International Commercial Arbitration in Africa.’ Available at http://kmco.co.ke/wpcontent/uploads/2018/08/PROMOTINGINTERNATIONALCOMMERCIALARBITRATION-INAFRICA.pdf (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

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Natural Justice., ‘Kenya’s Climate Change Bill: Paving the Way for Sustainable Development and Carbon Markets.’ Available at https://naturaljustice.org/kenyas-climate-change-bill-paving-the-wayforsustainable-development-and-carbon-markets/ (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

Sustainable Energy for All., ‘Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI).’ Available at https://www.seforall.org/our-work/initiatives-projects/ACMI (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

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The Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment., ‘Certified Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement’ Available at https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/86680864084e47118f0086fccc0855 fd/template-nmoce-erpa2016-2020.pdf (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

United Nations Climate Change., ‘Emissions Trading’ Available at https://unfccc.int/process/the-kyotoprotocol/mechanisms/emissions-trading (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

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United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs., ‘The Implications of Climate Change for Mediation and Peace Processes’ Available at https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/DPPAPracticeNoteTheImplicationsofClimateChangeforMediationandPeaceProcesses.pdf (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

United Nations Development Programme., ‘Carbon Justice for All: How Carbon Markets Can Advance Equitable Climate Action Globally’ Available at https://www.undp.org/africa/blog/carbon-justice-allhow-carbon-markets-can-advance-equitable-climate-action-globally (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

United Nations Development Programme., ‘What are Carbon Markets and Why are They Important?’ Available at https://climatepromise.undp.org/news-and-stories/what-are-carbon-markets-and-why-arethey-important (Accessed on 22/02/2024).

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World Bank., ‘General Conditions Applicable to Emission Reductions Payment Agreements for Forest Carbon Partnership Facility Emission Reductions Programs’ Available at https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/sites/fcp/files/2019/Sep/6.%20Emission%20Reductions%20 Payment%20Agreement%20%28ERPA%29%20General%20Terms%20and%20Conditions%20%28English %29.pdf (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

World Intellectual Property Organization., ‘What is Arbitration’ Available at https://www.wipo.int/amc/en/arbitration/what-is-arb.html (Accessed on 23/02/2024).

News & Analysis

What is Carbon Markets?

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Written by Faith Nyambura Kabora, Advocate.

Carbon markets are a mechanism designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which are essentially gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to the negative impacts of climate change such as prolonged drought and rising of sea levels.

Carbon markets operate on the principle of putting a price on carbon emissions to create commercial/economic incentives for public and private entities to reduce their carbon footprint and invest in cleaner, sustainable practices.

Ideally, by putting a price on carbon, the carbon markets encourage sustainable environmental practices and help counties meet their emission reduction targets under international treaties, like the Paris Agreement, which Kenya is a signatory to. For a broader understanding, here is how a carbon market works;

  1. A Government establishes a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gas emission/pollution is allowed within its geographical limits;
  2. A grant, say permissions are created and distributed to eligible participants. This allowance represents the right to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gas;
  3. The participants can then buy and sell the allowances. Ideally, those who reduce their emissions more efficiently sell their surplus allowance to those who find it more challenging to reduce the emissions. If a company pollutes a lot, they need to buy more permissions, and if they do not pollute as much, they can sell their extra permissions.
  4. Entities are required to hold enough allowances to cover their actual emissions. If they exceed allocated allowances, they face penalties or, as expounded above, they buy additional allowances. This is the part where compliance becomes mandatory for all the key players.
  5. The price of the allowances fluctuates based on supply and demands and reflects the cost of emitting greenhouse gases. It is essentially like paying for pollution.

A carbon market plays a pivotal role in advancing climate action and promoting sustainable practices by incentivizing companies to reconsider their pollution practices, which can result in financial consequences as pollution becomes a costly endeavor. In Kenya, the introduction of a Carbon Market is imperative as the world confronts the dire consequences of climate change. Furthermore, it offers a commercial opportunity for investors considering the growing demand for environmentally friendly and carbon neutral products and services.

As mentioned above, the Paris Agreement is one of the most important international treaties dedicated strengthen global response to the negative impact of climate change. Ultimately, the Agreement’s goal is to motivate countries to limit global emissions and more importantly, to hold them accountable for their actions around reducing their carbon footprints.

Kenya as a signatory to the Paris Agreement has made significant contributions towards fulfilling the obligations under the Paris Agreement of limiting global temperature. The Climate Change (Amendment) Act 2023, nudges Kenya towards the realization of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement by introducing provisions and regulation of and participation in carbon markets.

As one of the top law firms in Nairobi, MMA Advocates is renowned for its proactive strategy and innovative legal lawyer advice. Our firm is committed to delivering strategic assistance that not only tackles current difficulties but also equips clients for future legal trends and advancements. As top lawyers in Nairobi Kenya, we take great satisfaction in our ability to combine in-depth legal knowledge with creative problem-solving. We keep a close eye on business trends and legal advancements to deliver timely guidance that enables our clients to make wise choices.

Our main goal as MMA Advocates is to establish long-lasting partnerships based on integrity, decency, and reliability. Since every client’s circumstance is unique, our best advocates in Kenya offer timely service and individualized attention at every stage of our collaboration. We make sure our clients are informed and empowered throughout their legal journey because we value openness and transparency in communication. In every case we take on, we are deeply committed to obtaining positive results and client satisfaction. This is just one aspect of our unwavering commitment to quality.

Whether you are a startup negotiating regulatory obstacles, an established corporation expanding, or a private citizen seeking legal assistance on personal problems, our Best Corporate Lawyers in Kenya are dedicated to becoming your legal partner. Our expertise include Commercial Litigation, Real Estate & Development, Fintech, Public Procurement (Public Private Partnerships), Project Finance, Public Law Litigation, Legal Audits & Compliance Advisory and Crisis Management.

We hope to arm you with the legal know-how and strategies needed to achieve your objectives. Our team enjoys taking on challenging legal matters with creativity and strategic understanding, protecting your rights and effectively achieving your goals. With a thorough comprehension of both regional laws and global norms, we are prepared to confidently and competently lead you through the complexities of corporate law.

In the intensely competitive legal arena, our tailored legal and strategic solutions distinguish us. We value depth over breadth, guaranteeing our clients our full dedication and unparalleled efficiency. Where many spread themselves wide, we narrow our focus to a select few of the most challenging cases. We tread the path less traveled.

To find out more about how MMA Advocates in Nairobi Kenya can help you with your legal issues, get in touch with us. With our team of committed professionals and our standing as one of the top law firms in Nairobi, we are well-positioned to offer outcomes that surpass expectations and guarantee your success in a legal environment that is always changing.

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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.

Kariuki Muigua & Company Advocates is a Top-Tier Kenyan law firm situated at the heart of Nairobi city in Kenya. We are a broad-based practice with a reputation for offering a full range of quality services to our domestic and international clients.

At KM&CO, we take pride in offering personalized attention to our diverse clientele. Our practice aspires to offer efficient and cost-effective legal solutions that meet our esteemed clients’ needs in a timely and competent manner.

KM&CO was founded in 1993 by the current senior Advocate, Dr. Kariuki Muigua. It is based in the Central Business District of Nairobi at the Pioneer Assurance House located opposite 7th August Bomb Blast Memorial Park enjoying the convenience of close proximity to major financial, commercial and governmental institutions.

We are open for consultations with our clients worldwide; we have lawyers on standby for 24 hours to cover diverse time zones that impact on our global clients.

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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.

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Kariuki Muigua & Company Advocates is a Top-Tier Kenyan law firm situated at the heart of Nairobi city in Kenya. We are a broad-based practice with a reputation for offering a full range of quality services to our domestic and international clients.

At KM&CO, we take pride in offering personalized attention to our diverse clientele. Our practice aspires to offer efficient and cost-effective legal solutions that meet our esteemed clients’ needs in a timely and competent manner.

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