The Ghana National Association of ADR Practitioners (GNAAP) has urgently called for the establishment of the National Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre to actively implement and promote the ADR concept across the country.
Although the establishment of the national centre, which will oversee the operations of the Regional and District ADR Centres, is a core requirement of the ADR Act 2010, Act 798, it remains to be done.
“For over seven years now, the National ADR centre has not seen the light of the day,” said Mr. Robert Sarfo Mensah, President of GNAAP, regretting that “everyone is paying lip service to the ADR concept.”
In his speech at the fourth Annual General Conference of GNAAP in Accra, Mr. Mensah stressed that the setting up of the national centre was the obligation of the Minister for Justice and Attorney General under the ADR Act.
The conference, which had the theme, “Post-election: reconciling the nation, the role of ADR practitioners,” was used to assess the progress of the ADR concept and build on the gains made so far.
The ADR Act 2010, Act 798 was promulgated to see to the establishment of ADR centres across the nation. The objectives and functions of such a centre when established, is to provide facilities for the settlement of disputes through arbitration, mediation and other voluntary dispute resolution procedures; exercise any power for alternative dispute resolution conferred on it by parties to a dispute; keep a register of arbitrators and mediators; provide a list of arbitrators and mediators to persons who request for the services of arbitrators and mediators, provide guidelines on fees for arbitrators and mediators, arrange for the provision of assistance to persons as it considers necessary; from time to time examine the rules of arbitration and mediation under the Act and recommend changes in the rules, conduct research, provide education and issue specialised publications on all forms of alternative dispute resolution; set up such regional and district offices of the centre as the Board considers appropriate; register experienced or qualified persons who wish to serve as customary arbitrators and keep a register of customary arbitrators; and request the traditional councils to register too.
But GNAAP notes that, although some progress has been made in respect of promoting the concept, most requirements of the law were yet to be fulfilled.
According to Mr. Mensah, even though the Judicial Service has adopted ADR practice into its adjudication system, cases are resolved by the ADR process only when the court refers a case to the ADR department, but disputing parties cannot walk in and report cases at the court to be resolved through the ADR process.
“The Judicial Service having a full directorate for ADR is not enough.
“What the Act stipulates is the full establishment of the National ADR centres, whereby the weak and the vulnerable can walk in and present a dispute and have issues resolved with minimal cost to have peace and justice,” he said.
In that regard, he said that notable institutions such as Institute of Paralegal Training and Leadership Studies (IPLS) and Gamey and Gamey Institute, should be highly acknowledged and supported in all spheres for training a host of ADR practitioners, professionally to meet the human resource demands of the ADR sector and to support the national ADR centre when established.
Also, he explained that the GNAAP, as a stakeholder in peace building, has gone ahead in collaboration with IPLS to establish a non-governmental organization called the Centre for Citizens Empowerment (CCE) that replicates what the National ADR centre needs to do for the citizenry.
“CCE receives cases from all walks of life and give pro bono services to clients in mediation, conflict coaching, expert determination and arbitration in resolving these issues. Whenever a case hinges on law, CCE finds a pro bono lawyer who assists the client. The centre has well qualified professionals in ADR. Some being retired higher court judges supporting the centre to give solace to the vulnerable in seeking justice,” he explained.
Touching on the successes of the CCE, he said the centre received 74 cases in 2016 consisting of 16 family disputes, 10 labour disputes, 26 commercial disputes, 18 land disputes, one tenancy dispute and three uncategorized cases, adding that 49 cases were settled amicably through mediation, while 10 were given legal assistance, with 15 cases ongoing.
“This is what the National ADR centre, when established, is supposed to do in justice delivery to the people. It is supposed to bring justice to the door step of the people thereby decongesting the conventional courts because most civil cases could have been handled at the centres across the country,” he stated.
Justifying the need for national conscious in the use of ADR mechanisms to solve conflicts, he noted that “the ADR concept is not alien to us as Africans; rather our system of adjudication is all ADR. Our customary laws were based on this concept.”
Although there were some shortcomings in the implementation of the mediation and arbitration process by some of the chiefs in the carriage of justice, he said on the whole, it remains better than litigating in the courts.
“Most often than not, the lawyers and the judges take over the cases, handle them in a manner that leaves the litigants as outsiders, and eventually, go home not satisfied, and the tension and acrimony lingers on.
“However, ADR, through interest based mediation and arbitration, creates room for the disputants to communicate and manage their issues face to face and encourage themselves to affirm their commitment to a peaceful settlement and resolution. In it, both parties, careful of their common interest, leave the resolution table more satisfied,” the GNAAP President stressed.
In view of the benefits, he said “the GNAAP is urging the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to see to the full implementation of the ADR Act 798, 2010. Secondly, state institutions such as the Police, Ghana Peace Council, Electoral Commission and Political parties are being encouraged to use ADR mechanisms in dealing with electoral disputes to achieve peaceful outcomes.”
By: Adotey Mingle/adrdaily.com