General News of Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Source: GNA

CJ asks Ghanaians to patronise Alternative Dispute Resolution

Accra, Oct. 6, GNA - The Chief Justice (CJ), Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood has called on Ghanaians to explore the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in dispute settlements, to help ease the current pressure on the court system.

She explained that the ADR system was made up of procedures and various processes for resolving disputes other than through court trials.

Justice Mrs. Wood, who was addressing participants at a two-day training workshop, organized by the Ghana Association of Certified Mediators and Arbitrators in Accra on Wednesday, said the passage of the new ADR Act of 2010 Act (798) was commendable although it took some time to have it passed.

The CJ said the system that had been tried and tested under various legislations over the years had yielded tremendous dividends, particularly at the District Courts, with progressive improvement in the turnover of cases.

The workshop was to herald the formalization of the new ADR Act of 2010 Act (798), which replaces the Arbitration Act of 1961, Act 38, which regulated the settlement of disputes by arbitration, and to educate certified ADR practitioners on how to effectively utilize the law to bring about peaceful settlements of disputes. Justice Mrs. Wood explained that the new Act, does not only save time and money, but also give procedural satisfaction, and is devoid of the unfriendly court atmosphere, guarantees confidentiality as well as improve communication and preservation of relationships. She called on Ghanaians, particularly those in the business sector to help nurture the new culture of justice delivery, citing its relevance to the resolution of disputes that might emerge as a result of the oil find in the country.

Justice Mrs. Wood stressed that there was the need for Ghana to position the judicial system such that it could manage disputes that were bound to arise from the oil industry. She expressed the hope that the ADR could serve as the most appropriate mechanism for the peaceful resolution of oil-related disputes, particularly, conflicts involving communities and oil producers.

"It is our collective responsibility to consider all matters of public interest in relation to our oil find, not necessarily out of euphoria in respect of the benefits that we hope will flow from the anticipated oil revenue, but particularly from the negative consequences that might befall our relatively peaceful nation if issues are not properly managed.", Justice Mrs. Wood Said.

Justice Mrs. Wood said that the importance of ADR in the justice delivery system has been acknowledged world-wide and it was not surprising that Ghana's Judiciary has integrated it fully into the justice administration, to provide impetus to its collective effort to make ADR attractive to persons in conflict.

She also noted that bringing customary arbitration within the preview of the Act, demonstrates clearly the important role customary arbitration plays within the informal justice sector. Justice Mrs. Wood said that challenges ranging from reporting of unfairness and inequity often results in the courts overturning awards given through customary arbitration.

She said: "We hope a clear knowledge of the process of customary arbitration as reproduced in the Act would serve as a check list for our elders and traditional rulers when they sit in arbitration and therefore reduce the number of awards, which are invalidated by the courts". Justice Mrs. Wood said that the Judiciary, under a World Bank funded programme, was about to embark on training to build the capacities of traditional rulers and prepare them for the ADR implementation.

Prof. Kofi Quashigah, President GHACMA, said participants would be introduced to the important aspects of the law. He said: "We in GHACMA would want to see the litigation culture of the Ghanaian replaced with the ADR culture," but added that this could not take place overnight and it would require the support of all stakeholders to ensure its success.

Prof. Quashigah said GHACMA would continue to provide basic training for those interested in ADR activities. He said that the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana would soon start a Masters' Programme in ADR, which would be opened to both lawyers and others with a first degree in any other subject: managers, human resource officers and others to develop their capacities. Lieutenant-General Arnold Quainoo, Former Commander of the Ghana Armed Forces, reiterated the need for Mediators and Arbitrators to intensify their efforts to sell the new concept of ADR to the public, to ensure sustained peace among communities especially in the era of Ghana's oil find.

He said that currently the desire of the public for court trial out weigh their preference for ADR and asked participants to market the concept through vigorous education to it attractive to the people.