Construction Law International - March 2021 - From the Co-Chairs
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Dear ICP Members,
We hope everyone had a joyful holiday season, and a good start to the year.
The year 2020 will, in all certainty, be remembered for the tragedy derived from the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic struck our lives without warning, expanded at the speed of a globalised, hyper-connected world, and collected its heavy toll of human lives and economic loss. The first global and massive health crisis in more than 100 years reached virtually every country and put the world into quarantine. Lockdown, isolation, facemasks and social distancing became part of our daily vocabulary, and are very likely to shape the way we interact with others going forward.
However, as in every crisis, opportunities arose. The pandemic showed, perhaps in the worst possible way, the extent to which the world is rather a small place, and the concept of globalisation achieved its widest possible scope. But at the same time, this globalisation and connectivity produced an unprecedented new ground for global cooperation which was crystallised in the remarkable race to develop a vaccine against the virus, bringing together governments, non-governmental organisations and corporations in a joint, monumental and international scientific effort. The fruits of this endeavour can be seen today, bringing hope and relief everywhere.
The construction industry suffered the consequences of the pandemic as any other industry or sector across the world; legal issues of all sorts surfaced as contracts and projects were suspended or even cancelled, and owners, contractors, vendors, subcontractors, advisors, etc worked out how to sort the problems with the legal tools available, which did not seem to respond or adapt well to the new reality.
Negotiation and common sense achieved a whole new meaning as everyone understood that litigation or arbitration were not the immediate answers to tackling problems derived from the pandemic, and that rather, the solution lay in the hands of the parties. Collaborative approaches to contracting and dispute resolution appeared as a sensible path to follow and are likely to become a growing trend in the years ahead.
The dispute resolution sector also underwent a process of profound change. Digital and online proceedings became the norm, even in places where, only a year ago, the possibility to administer justice through a computer was unthinkable, or at least heavily underdeveloped. Online mediations, hearings, meetings and depositions became part of day-to-day practice, and lawyers, judges, arbitrators, mediators and experts quickly learnt the new rules of the game. Arbitration rules across the world have been amended to make proceedings more accessible and expeditious, and dispute boards and other alternative dispute resolution methods have increasingly captured the attention of governments and private companies as a more cost-effective and efficient way of settling disputes with a focus on the project.
At the ICP Committee we also encountered a quick learning curve and adaptation process. During 2020, we presented 12 fully online sessions, with more than 50 speakers and more than 2,000 registered participants. The ICP Committee officers met online ten times during the year, and there was an enormous amount of interaction, ideas and discussion. Last year also marked the launch of the ICP Committee initiative on Diversity and Inclusion in the construction industry, which had its kick-off event with a session addressing global diversity and inclusion policy with a focus on the infrastructure and construction industry.
CLInt, our exclusive magazine, also transformed itself from a paper publication to the current online, digital format, without losing a pinch of the quality content it is known for. In fact, more than 50 articles have been contributed by 69 members across the world, making CLInt a unique platform of construction law knowledge-sharing with a truly global reach.
All this would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of all of our officers and the constant support of our members and IBA staff. To all of them, our sincere gratitude. We asked a lot of you over the year and we really appreciated your amazing response, which allowed the ICP Committee to be more connected than ever, despite no in-person events.
The second year of our tenure as Co-Chairs in 2021 poses new challenges before us. In the hope that the pandemic finally recedes, we are making plans to host our traditional working weekend in Vevey, Switzerland. This landmark event in the ICP Committee calendar had to be postponed in 2020 and more recently in early March 2021 because of Covid-19-related travel and events restrictions, but a new date has been set for May 2022, when we hope to meet in person again. Members interested in attending the working weekend, but not registered, please feel free to reach out to us as there may be opportunities to participate in lieu of registered delegates who will not be able to make it.
Our biennial conference, Projects from Inception to Completion, is also on the agenda, and we are also working with the IBA in the development of our programme for the IBA Annual Conference. We very much look forward to all of these in-person events, and to meeting old and new friends face-to-face again.
At the same time, we will continue to develop online working sessions and hope to achieve more cooperation with other committees within SEERIL and across the IBA, finding areas of mutual interest to develop joint sessions and projects. This will provide ICP Committee members with greater opportunities to learn from, share knowledge and interact with members of related committees and practices.
The ICP Committee has always been open to attracting new members and providing tangible and immediate opportunities for involvement. We encourage members to stay alert for calls for expressions of interest to act as speakers or moderators in our functions, and to submit applications and contribute papers to these and articles to CLInt.
As Co-Chairs we welcome everyone to reach out to us and share views and ideas on how to make the ICP Committee a richer, more interactive, diverse, inclusive and global community.
We wish you and your families, friends and colleagues well and look forward to the year ahead.
Co-Chair, IBA International Construction Projects Committee
Co-Chair, IBA International Construction Projects Committee