By Isaac Asare
Completing university as a management student and majoring in marketing, one would have thought that I will work with a marketing company or at a marketing department of a company.
However, my life was different before completing school in 2013. I had the privilege to do an attachment at the Judicial Service of Ghana.
The Human Resource Department upon seeing my programme of study, “Management with Computing” perhaps thought that it was an ICT related programme, so I was posted to the ICT workshop.
One afternoon, a call came from one of the departments requesting for assistance. As usual in every office, when it is 3pm and people are waiting for the clock to hit 4pm to go home, such calls are not entertained and most officers act reluctantly.
As an intern, I was eager to know what the problem was and if I could offer any help. I asked one of the officers (colleague) and he told me the person needed someone to assist him in preparing a power point presentation. Microsoft Suit, which was a course I did at the University, had power point as an aspect of it. Therefore, I was in the best position to assist. I asked one of my colleagues who was of my age to show me the office.
He led me into the National ADR Coordinator for Judicial Service of Ghana’s office. I was able to assist him. Little did I know that my journey as an ADR practitioner had begun.
In February, 2013, the Institute of Paralegal Training and Leadership Studies (IPLS) was born, registered and handed to me to manage under the supervision of a governing council. I was taken through training in August 2013, during the first training of the institute. I also got training from the personal interaction with practitioners, the preparation of notes for facilitators, and lot of personal readings.
My practice as an ADR practitioner came to play when we registered an NGO called Centre for Citizen’s Empowerment which aimed at helping the vulnerable in the society. I was responsible for managing the administration and issuing out of invitation letters to respondents.
As an administrator of a dispute resolution Centre and access to justice centre, there was the need to do more and learn more because I am convinced that professionalism is not about how old you are, but the satisfaction you give to people who come your way.
I started doing co-mediation with other practitioners who came to assist disputing parties.
Sometimes a mediator may fail to attend the meeting and I had to sit in for the mediator with the consent of the parties.
At the early stages, it was not easy. People see you as “a small boy” and comments like “how can an unmarried assist the married and experienced”, made it more unpleasant.
Nonetheless, these comments and some attitudes did not deter me from doing what I was passionate about. I became passionate about the practice and learned to satisfy every disputant that came my way.
ADR practice follows processes and everyone who wants to practice must learn to follow the process. Due to my adherence to these principles, I have sat on more than 150 cases and I have settled not less than 80 of them as a young ADR Practitioner of 28 years of age.
Most of the cases I handled were done through co-mediation and few of them I mediated alone. Although I have not mediated many commercial cases and have also not received much income from most of the cases I resolved (since the Centre is an NGO) as a young ADR practitioner, I see the practice as a career that young people can embark on.
In this era of unemployment, coupled with businesses looking for alternative ways to resolve disputes in the industry they operate, ADR practice offers a perfect opportunity. The practice cuts across all fields like the law practice. Being an ADR practitioner does not mean you will only resolve conflict through mediation as I have described earlier, but you can become an arbitrator, negotiator, conflict assessor, conciliator, ombudsman, and other ADR mechanism available that the youth can develop a career in.
Bright future for ADR
The future of ADR practice in Ghana is positive and I am optimistic that Ghana can become a pivot for ADR practice in Africa.
The Court system since 2005 have used ADR mechanisms to reduce backlog of cases.
In commercial cases, as stipulated in CI 47, a commercial case shall go for pre-trial (which is an ADR process) before it can be heard at the open court if the pre-trial is not successful.
I wish to advocate that, the pre-trial should be handled by a professional ADR practitioner chosen by the parties (neutrals outside the court) without allowing judges to sit on the case at pre-trial to enhance confidence in the process.
In view of this, Ghana can become a hub of ADR practice if we put the right procedures and measures in place to jealously guide the ADR practice.
I do not see the reason why cases, especially arbitration cases should be held outside Ghana which the country can be making so much from.
If measures are put in place and Ghanaians are practicing ADR and earning from it, they will eventually pay taxes and other expenses which will benefit Ghana.
National ADR Centre
Ghana as a country started on the right path in respect to the ADR practice by passing ADR Act 2010 (Act 798) but seven years down the lane, what are we doing to implement the “fine” Act passed? ADR practice is premise on the parties but if the Country has the right legislation in place, it boosts the confidence of practitioners and clients using the service.
As a young ADR practitioner, I urge the government through the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General who is mandated to establish the National ADR Centre as stipulated in ADR Act 2010, to make it a reality.
This will serve as a regulatory body for ADR practice in Ghana through its Legislative Instrument.
I wish to encourage every ADR practitioner to keep up the good work and act professionally to raise the image of the ADR profession.
My people (youth of Ghana) do not wait for the government to do something in the field of ADR practice before you start your career in ADR. The time is now.
I wish to also urge businesses and business executives to incorporate ADR Clauses in their contract to save them time and money should any dispute arise out of the contract. Above all, litigation is good but not desirable.
Isaac Asare – Administrator, GNAAP