The Chief Justice, Mrs Theodora Georgina Wood, has called on the government to put in place the necessary structures and systems that will make Ghana an arbitration centre and an attractive destination for disputants.
She argued that, with Ghana having endeared herself to the international community as a democratic, peaceful, stable and fast-growing economy of middle income status and the gateway to Africa, it now behoves the country to venture into the arena of an arbitration centre.
The Chief Justice made this statement when she addressed the closing of a training programme on arbitration in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) at the Marian Conflict Resolution Centre (MCRC) at the Catholic University College of Ghana (CUCG), Fiapre, in the Sunyani West District in the Brong Ahafo Region.
About 90 persons, made up of lawyers, members of the legal aid board and other individuals in the Brong Ahafo Region attended the five-day training programme, which was facilitated by renowned judges, professors and other legal brains from the USA, Australia and Malta, led by Judge Dennis Lynch and Prof. John D. Feerich and their local counterparts.
The programme, which dwelt extensively on mediation this year, as against focusing on arbitration last year, was organised jointly by the Sunyani Catholic Diocese, CUCG, Giving to Ghana Foundation and the Fordham Law School, USA.
The aim of the session, which was the third edition to be held in the region, was to equip the participants with the fundamental knowledge and skills required in arbitrating disputes that may occur at their work places, churches, groups, families and communities, among other societal settings.
They discussed basic definitions in arbitration, contrast differences with negotiation, mediation and arbitration, review Ghana arbitration laws and development of arbitration in Ghana and contrast with arbitration in America today, among other subject areas.
The Chief Justice noted that, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) had played and would continue to play a significant role in the fulfillment of constitutional responsibilities in Ghana.
‘‘Whenever there had been the need to reduce the backlog of cases inundating Ghanaian trial courts, ADR, as a core complementary component of the justice administration system, has aptly been deployed as an appropriate tool in this direction,’’Mrs Wood observed.
She noted that, globally, ADR had already caught on as the recommended mode of dispute resolution, with arbitration being the predominant mechanism in commercial dispute settlement.
She said experience had shown that, arbitration had found favour among the business community in Ghana and particularly among foreign investors who might not be too comfortable resorting to foreign courts for adjudication of disputes.
Mrs Wood indicated that, over the last several years, the judicial service of Ghana, had embarked on innovative reform initiatives as a means of ensuring that justice delivery in Ghana was redefined to make it speedy, efficient, effective and more people focused as well as result oriented.
She declared, ‘‘The Judiciary, as you know too well, has the sole responsibility of interpreting the Constitution and laws of Ghana and administering justice, with a view to promoting the rule of law and democratic governance. By no mean standards, this is a grave responsibility but ADR has played and will continue to play a significant role in the fulfillment of our constitutional responsibilities.’’
The Chief Justice urged the participants to value the knowledge gained during the period and over the years at the MCRC and prayed that they put it to effective use either as lawyers representing clients in arbitration or as arbiters under the auspices of the MCRC, whenever they were called upon to do so.
‘‘Let me reiterate the commitment of the judicial service of Ghana to support this project in whatever ways we are capable of and to extend my appreciation to the MCRC for your efforts in helping to take some of the burden of the courts, through the propagation of ADR as an alternative to court room adjudication,’’ she stated emphatically.
By Akwasi Ampramtwum-Mensah/Ghana
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