7. Dispute resolution and fair termination
Disputes and conflict are a normal part of relationships. Rather than striving to avoid or silence them, it is much better to have good procedures to manage conflict and avoid unnecessary escalation. Simple common sense ways include:
- building good relationships with counterparts and being open with them
- ensuring regular management coordination, and occasional meetings between senior management representatives
- keeping records, documenting problems and raising them with management
- ensuring partners feel comfortable to contact a senior manager themselves.
Where negotiations between senior management cannot resolve a dispute, it might be necessary to go to arbitration. Contracts should specify when and how.
Any evidence of malpractice, such as breach of codes of conduct or financial malpractice, should be acted on by all staff who become aware of it. Suggested procedures are:
- Evidence of malpractice detected by CARE staff should be documented and presented to a specified senior staff (e.g. a programme manager or coordinator).
- The senior staff should discuss the issue with the team handling the partner, then issue a request for clarification to the partner, giving one week to reply.
- Depending on the type of malpractice, this notice might also order a freeze on partner spending and disbursements to the partner.
- A team appointed by the senior staff then makes an investigation and submits a report on findings within seven days-the result is also circulated to the partner.
- A follow-up plan is agreed and progress is monitored until the issue is resolved. For cases of serious malpractice, including fraud, contracts are terminated.
Termination can be initiated by either party, usually as a last resort for irreconcilable differences, a prolonged project suspension for reasons like insecurity, or termination of donor funding. All terminations must be governed by contracts. Key issues include:
- Both partners should know the reasons for termination-refer to the problems and the contract conditions that justify termination for these reasons.
- People or organisations that will be affected (beneficiaries, government, donors, etc.) should be informed-be professional and sensitive about how
- Partners should be given a set period to settle accounts and return equipment-this should be regulated by the termination clause of a contract.