Introduction to the FIDIC Suite of Contracts

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The origins of the FIDIC suite

The Fédération Internationale Des Ingénieurs-Conseils1 (FIDIC) was founded in Belgium in 1913. Since then, it has become the foremost representative body for the world's consulting engineers, with member associations in some 100 countries.

Although the Contracts Committee became one of its earliest constituent parts soon after FIDIC's foundation, it was not until 1957 that the first FIDIC standard form contract was produced.

The first contract, known as the Red Book First Edition,2 was not actually drafted by FIDIC but was instead an authorised 're-badging' by FIDIC, of the ICE Conditions of Contract Fourth Edition, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers. This was itself an 'international' contract in the sense that it had been adopted by the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACE) as such. Although the modern FIDIC forms have developed very significantly since the 1950s, it is still relevant to note that '[t]he Red Book is based on a domestic contract.'3

These common law origins continue to be used as a criticism by some commentators, especially in civil law jurisdictions, who are sceptical of FIDIC's entitlement to its paramount position, though the Silver Book, for example, owes relatively little to an English heritage. Successive editions of the Red Book were issued in 1969,4 19775 and 1987.6

The other long-established FIDIC contract is the Yellow Book,7 first produced in 1963 and with subsequent editions in 19808 and 1987,9 which is the design and build equivalent of the employer design Red Book.


Landmarks in development of the Contracts

In the mid-1990s, two significant events occurred in the history of the development of the FIDIC Contracts. These were the introduction of a turnkey contract, the Orange Book,10 and the setting up of a task group to produce a major revision of the Red and Yellow Books. These events led to the launch in 1999 of the so-called 'Rainbow Suite' from the colours of the covers of the respective Books: Red, Yellow and Silver.11

In December 2017, 18 years after FIDIC released its First Edition Rainbow Suite in 1999, FIDIC published Second Editions of the Red, Yellow and Silver Books as updates to the First Editions. The introduction of the 2017 Rainbow Suite was the latest significant landmark in the development of international contracting for major infrastructure projects worldwide.

The position of the FIDIC contracts, specifically in major development work, has been secured by the signing of a five-year agreement with the World Bank,12 with a commitment to use six FIDIC agreements13 for its projects, and on 10 May 2019 a five-year agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank,14 which will ensure the use of the same contracts for development-financed projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.15

The latest addition to the FIDIC suite is the Conditions of Contract for Underground Works, known as the Emerald Book. This contract, produced in collaboration with the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, was released on 7 May 2019.16


An Overview of the Leading FIDIC Contracts: Red, Yellow and Silver Books

During 2019 and for the immediate future, the principal FIDIC contracts are in a state of transition. The official position is quite straightforward. The current versions of the Red, Yellow and Silver Books are the Second Editions, which were launched by FIDIC in London17 on 5 December 2017. However, the reality is that the contracts in widespread use at the time of writing are those of the 1999 Rainbow Suite, a situation which is likely to continue for some time to come.

It is therefore necessary to provide short accounts of the 1999 Red, Yellow and Silver Books, before offering an introduction to their 2017 successors...Click here to download the full 'Introduction to the FIDIC Suite of Contracts' PDF »



1 The International Federation of Consulting Engineers.
2 Conditions of Contract for Works of Civil Engineering Construction, 1957.
3 Dr Nael Bunni, The FIDIC Forms of Contract, 3rd ed, Ch.2, Blackwell Publishing (2005).
4 2nd ed.
5 3rd ed.
6 4th ed, as reprinted in 1988 and 1992 with editorial amendments.
7 Conditions of Contract for Plant and Design-Build for Electrical and Mechanical Plant, and for Building and Engineering Works, Designed by the Contractor.
8 2nd ed.
9 3rd ed.
10 Conditions of Contract for Design-Build and Turnkey, 1995.
11 As stated below, the Green Book, FIDIC's short form of contract, also has a claim to be considered as part of the Rainbow Suite, as it was issued in 1999.
12 FIDIC, 'World Bank signs five-year agreement to use FIDIC standard contracts',, accessed 25 July 2019.
13 These are the 2017 Red Book, 2017 Yellow Book, 2017 Silver Book, 2017 White Book, 2008 Gold Book and 1999 Green Book.
14 FIDIC, 'Inter-American Development Bank signs five-year agreement to use FIDIC standard contracts',, accessed 25 July 2019.
15 A similar agreement has been reached with the Caribbean Development Bank in July 2019: FIDIC, 'Caribbean Development Bank signs five-year agreement to use FIDIC standard contracts',, accessed 25 July 2019. On 18 July 2019, FIDIC also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the China International Contractors Association (CHINCA) to improve collaboration between international and Chinese businesses, facilitate skills and knowledge transfer and increase the understanding and use of FIDIC contracts: FIDIC, 'FIDIC signs ground-breaking collaboration agreement with China International Contractors Association',, accessed 25 July 2019.
16 See further details below.
17 At the 30th FIDIC Users Conference.


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