This week marks the start of an ADR week in Ghana. An initiative CEDR welcome and encourage. The Ghanaians have set this year’s theme as ‘Court-Connected ADR… The Citizen’s Participation in the Administration of Justice’.
The aim of the week is to encourage citizens who are currently waiting to appear in court, to consider the benefits of non-arbitrary means of dispute resolution such as mediation. The use of such a campaign week is reasonably well established in the field, with the UK, Nigeria and many others utilising the tool.
In the UK, the benefits of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods have already been acknowledged, especially in the current financial climate. It is encouraging to see other governments across the globe are promoting the use of enhanced communication and resolution before litigation.
Ghana is currently undergoing a Judicial Review, of which ADR is likely to form a central part of the system’s revolution. National ADR co-ordinator, Mr Alex Nartey said the week is of paramount importance to ensure that justice is accessible to all.
CEDR have done a significant amount of work in the continent, including projects in Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa. In Nigeria in 2011 for example, CEDR carried out two courses in conflict management in ‘effective negotiation’ and in Botswana in 2008 CEDR was successful in training 67 officials from the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs in ‘mediation in organisations’. It is great to see the tool being used ever wider across the continent.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are funding the review to enhance the rights of the most vulnerable in Ghanaian society. The country is currently suffering in the wake of the global crisis, as organisations battle high interest rates, and face increasing competition from international counterparts. As unemployment has risen, access to justice has become more challenging.
The main aim of the week-long campaign is to educate the population about the benefits of ADR methods in resolving conflicts. In addition to media attention, the week encourages citizens to attend their local courts to find out more about the processes involved.
Ghana, as with many other developing nations, often suffer from a backlog in their judicial system, which can lead to oversights and in some cases, of perceived corruption, as pointed out by Senya Adjabeng (Expert on ADR and Corruption in Ghana). The use of ADR is hoped to lessen the strain on the current system, as well as reducing cases of exploitation; a primary aim of the UNDP and the global community at large. Adjabeng also points out that while there is a level of corruption in many organisations, that within each there are also staff members who are dedicated to their legitimate aims. It is often as a result of interaction between these two that conflict can arise.
Research conducted by Transparency International shows that the majority of citizens feel the judiciary and the police are among the most corrupt of Ghanaian institutions, but 60 per cent also feel that the government have been taking steps towards reducing this corruption. On judicial independence, Ghana scores 4.1 out of 7 (seven being entirely independent, one heavily influenced) which can be seen as a reasonably high score in comparison to the USA who score 4.9, which could be classed as low for a democracy.
Current Ghanaian regulations allow parties involved to opt for ADR at any point during the hearing process. This means that there is less scope for corrupt activities such as bribery, with the presence of a truly neutral mediator and the process taking place in a confidential setting as opposed to a court.
So arguably whilst ADR in Ghana is perhaps still in its infancy, it is fantastic to see an initiative such as ADR week taking place to promote the benefits to the people who need them most.