As part of the 2023 Legal Year Celebration, the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo has dedicated the 13th to 17th November, 2023 as the ADR Week under the theme: “Building the Pillars of Justice through Alternative Dispute Resolution”.
The Chief Justice must be commended for dedicating a week-long activity for the promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolution ( ADR ).
The theme for this year’s ADR week celebration underscores the growing importance of ADR in the country’s adjudication system and the need to address the bottlenecks of ADR practice for higher efficiency and to make ADR the preferred choice for dispute resolution.
The traditional courts are choked with cases which affect the timely resolution of court cases in addition to increasing cost of litigation. These and other factors justify the use ADR for conflict resolving as comparatively beneficial means of resolving disputes.
Peace building opportunity among disputants offered by the use of ADR spectrum constitute a treasured benefit of the ADR system which is considered absent in the litigious court system which is based on the principle of “the winner takes it all”. Most importantly, in the ADR system of conflict resolution, the parties in the conflict have the opportunity to control the conflict resolution process to achieve consent settlement.
We live in a changing world where the traditional adjudication system is gradually being transformed from a litigation approach to a system with peace building opportunities “to turn swords into plough shares.”
The growing relevance of ADR as the preferred means of resolving disputes lies in the fact that the main actors in the litigious legal system including Disputants, Judges, Lawyers, Witnesses get fatigued by the prolonged litigation of the court system.
In my practice as a Court-Connected ADR Practitioner, I sometimes marvel at the short time it takes in settling cases which could potentially take many years to have judgements because of the many adjournments in our traditional courts and even in situations where judgements are pronounced, the litigation climbs the ladders of the Court hierarchy in the form of appeals. I have had the experience of settling a case between two business partners in thirty minutes when the case could have taken not less than two years in court. There is an example of a case referred from the court for ADR settlement and the case was settled by a Court-Connected ADR Practitioner in a record time of ten minutes. These and many benefits are outstanding benefits of ADR to justify state investment in ADR. What is even more beneficial is that, when parties achieve consent settlement, the ADR Act of 2010 (Act 798) has provisions that prevent appeals at Higher Courts.
Despite the benefits of the ADR system, the sector faces many bottlenecks which require urgent attention to unfold the enormous benefits locked up in the ADR system.
The traditional Court system was structured on the basis of court room litigation without considering the structural needs of facilities such as Conference Rooms for privacy and confidentiality which are necessary for ADR dispute resolution sessions.
In view of the benefits of ADR such as cost effectiveness, speedy resolution of cases, peace building opportunities among others, there is a growing awareness of the benefits of ADR and increasing preference of ADR for conflict resolution.
This brings to fore the need for training of high level professional ADR Practitioners who would bring professionalism and respect for the ethics of neutrality, confidentiality, party autonomy into the ADR sector.
Institutions such as the Institute of Paralegal Training and Leadership Studies(IPLS) are training high calibre professional ADR Practitioners and Paralegals to the level of Executive Master in ADR and other allied courses to promote professionalism in ADR practice.
Poor remuneration of Court-Connected ADR Practitioners should be regarded as a hindrance to the retention of highly trained ADR Practitioners to promote excellence in the ADR practice.
As we celebrate the ADR week, we should concentrate on the numerous benefits that the nation stands to benefit from promoting ADR and the need for government to invest in the promotion ADR to achieve enormous benefits.
Considering the involvement of Ghana in peace initiatives in Africa and at the global level, Ghana has the potential to become the ADR hub for Africa.
Government should recognize the potential to make Ghana an ADR Hub for Africa in order to invest in the promotion of ADR in Ghana to become the preferred choice of dispute Resolution for Ghanaians and position Ghana to be the ADR Hub for Africa and at the global level.
I wish to congratulate ADR Practitioners who are making tremendous sacrifice to promote excellence and dignity of the ADR Practice.
By: Daniel Owusu-Koranteng -President of the Ghana National Association of ADR Practitioners ( GNAAP)