Select a phase

« Back to previous page

Writing good agreements and decisions

Any written agreement or decision should be accurately reflect what was said or meant.

What challenges does it focus on?

A well written agreement or decision supports compliance and prevents new disputes.

Short summary

It is important that any written agreement or decision accurately reflects what was said or meant. This gives parties clear instruction on what is expected. There are not yet many agreed standards for what a good settlement agreement looks like. The following practices have been described. They can also be used as guidelines when a decision is taken by a third party.

At a minimum, an agreement or decision should contain:

  • Information about the parties: name, address, day of birth.
  • Short description of the dispute: the dispute is about....
  • Description solutions: To solve this dispute, the parties have agreed....
  • Description of the agreed actions and a timeline:
  • Party A will.... before ....
  • Party B will.... on ....
  • If there are more parties, list all
  • Signatures of the parties, date, location
  • Name and signature of the facilitator, witnesses to the agreement, third parties.
  • What happens when there is a problem with compliance? How parties will solve any new disputes. Who they will go to, what they will do.
view full explanation

Options for Improving agreement, so that it is more likely to be complied with:

  • Use simple words, so that the agreement is easy to understand.
  • Make clear what the interests of each of the parties are. And why what has been agreed is the solution. This can be taken from the map of the dispute. Option: add the map of the dispute to the agreement. Or write the agreed solutions on the map.
  • Have each of the parties state what the problem was, what they will change in their behavior and why this is important to them. This declaration can be done:
  • As part of the written agreement
  • In the presence of witnesses like family members or influential people or other authorities
  • In public
  • Check that the solutions are realistic. Is it really possible for all parties to do what they agreed?
  • Add concerns that parties may have in relation to the agreement. Also, ways to address these concerns.
  • Add reasons why this outcome is seen as fair and just. You can refer to law, tradition, religion in the agreement. And state them orally when agreement is stated in public by parties.
  • Make sure it is clear what should happen: when, what, how much?
  • Include other items that make compliance more likely.
  • Actions to be taken in case there is a violation
  • Read through the agreement with the parties. Make sure they understand everything in it. Allow time for reflection and questions.

Below is an example of an agreement layout that you might like to use: Example Agreement

Research evidence

Evidence from practice

Promissory notes: It is common practices for example of the Karen facilitators in North Thailand to conclude a dispute resolution with a promissory note in which parties state what they will change in their behaviour.

Agreement format: Many NGO’s in for example in Cambodia and Rwanda work with formats for agreements to make sure all elements are included and the work process is efficient

Evidence from literature

Encourage the parties to agree to a cooling off period before signing an agreement and to include a cooling off clause in their agreement, allowing a party to rescind the agreement during a short period after it was made
Conflict Resolution Consortium, University of Colorado, ‘Cooling-Off Periods’ International Online Program on Intractable Conflict, /conflict/peace/treatment/cooloff.htm

Ten essential elements of good agreements:

  1. a statement on intent and vision: what do parties want to achieve individually and together?
  2. Roles: What is the role of each party to make it a success?
  3. Promises; what does each party promise to do?
  4. Time and value: when and for how much money?
  5. Measurement of satisfaction: when will parties be satisfied?
  6. Concerns and fears: what may go wrong?
  7. Renegotiation: What will parties do when this happens?
  8. Consequences: What can be consequences if a party doesn't keep his or her promise?
  9. Conflict resolution: If parties get into conflict, how will they try to solve it?
  10. Agreement: Signatures to proof that there is a real agreement.

The book of Agreement, Levine, S 2002

Best practices