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What is an Accord?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated May 17, 2024
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An accord is a type of mutual agreement, often between two countries. Two countries in disagreement will often allow delegates to reach an informal compromise, agreement, or settlement in preparation for a formal treaty or pact. Until the formal agreement is signed or otherwise ratified, a temporary accord allows a halt to hostilities or other negative actions. The idea is that accords show good faith willingness to reach a formalized, permanent agreement.

From a legal standpoint, an accord is generally not enforceable. The Kyoto Accord, for example, is a voluntary agreement among some of the largest nations around the globe. This agreement outlines promises that if one country reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, its neighbors agree to do the same. Countries voluntarily agree to participate and abide by the accords' terms. Should a country violate the terms of the compromise, there is little its neighboring countries can do in terms of legally forcing compliance.

While an accord is typically not a legally enforceable agreement, violating such a compromise, especially over sensitive international matters, may severely damage a country's reputation and trustworthiness. As such, most diplomats will honor an accord as a binding promise, provided the settlement is reached under ethical circumstances with those authorized to agree to such arrangements. While the delicate balance of international relations relies heavily on such promises, it is also understood that not all temporary settlements result in a permanent or formal agreement.

Although the term accord is generally applied to international agreements, such settlements are also applied to domestic arrangements. For example, in the United States, Great Britain, Germany and other countries, domestic debt obligation laws operate on the concept of accord and satisfaction. In other words, a contract between two parties can be amended if both parties agree to release the other from certain performance standards outlined in the original contract.

To illustrate the concept of accord and satisfaction, the relationship between a contractor and a customer can be considered. Customer A contracts a professional to build a fence around his property, with fees payable in stages as the work is completed. The final payment is due at completion of the project. Upon completion, Customer A complains of inferior materials after his horse bumps into the fence and breaks several rails. As a result, he refuses to make the final payment.

After reviewing Customer A's complaint, the contractor agrees the materials used in the fencing are of inferior quality. Rather than absorb the expense of new, superior fencing around the entire property, the contractor agrees to forgo his final payment. Customer A agrees that in exchange for the money saved, he will accept the inferior fencing. The amended agreement is an example of the concept of accord and satisfaction. Both parties agree to a new contract, thereby satisfying a deficit in the original agreement and reaching a mutually beneficial settlement.

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