Accra, Aug. 3, GNA – Dr Edward Ampratwum, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Head of Inclusive Growth and Accountable Governance, says rule of law, access to justice and legal empowerment contribute to an enabling environment for achieving sustainable growth and development.
He said in the absence of access to justice, people are unable to have their voices heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination, or hold decision-makers accountable.
Dr Ampratwum was speaking at a workshop validation of paralegal guide and legislative instrument for increased access to legal aid services in Accra.
It falls under the purview of the “USAID Justice Sector Support Activity” which aims to increase the accessibility of legal aid for the underprivileged.
The event was organised by the Legal Aid Commission, in partnership with UNDP and the Legal Resource Commission (LRC).
He said rule of law was, therefore, the foundation for both justice and security.
Dr Ampratwum said for UNDP, persons, irrespective of their social status, must have access to justice to ensure that their rights are protected; this was also a recipe for peace, to the extent that injustice was redressed.
“It is for this reason that the UNDP in Ghana had partnered with the Legal Aid Commission in Ghana in the past and shall continue to partner them on important efforts such as this that seeks to bridge the inequality gap in the country,” he said.
He said for decades, access to justice had been guaranteed as a basic human right under international and national laws.
“Yet for hundreds and millions of poor and vulnerable people around the world, including Ghana, this right is not their reality,” he added.
He said this may be attributed to the lack of the adoption of effective strategies and inefficient implementation of existing laws.
Mr Enoch Jengre, Rule of Law Specialist, LRC, said in over 20 years after the establishment of the only state-funded Legal Aid to provide legal services to the socially and economically disadvantaged in society, it did not exist in all districts in the country.
He said as of June 2022, it was estimated that Ghana had a total of 4,199 lawyers in good standing, sadly the legal Aid commission has only 35 lawyers working nationwide.
The result, according to him, “was that accused people, the poor, underprivileged or those who cannot afford legal services were likely to be abused by the law more often without someone defending them.”
Mr Jengre emphasised that the paralegal system would broaden and open the legal system in the administration of justice, particularly in the districts, to allow access to the disadvantaged.
Throwing more light on paralegals, he said they provided significant support to lawyers in a variety of ways, including investigating facts and performing legal research.
Mr Martin Amoyaw, the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Commission, said the legal Aid offices were in the district and regional capitals, making most people travel far for their services.
According to him, passing the new Legal Aid Commission Act would give them the mandate to open a paralegal system to allow them to train non-lawyers who could handle small cases which needed not to go to court.
He said these non-lawyers would be trained in various communities to solve issues that were not too complicated.
Dr Tufuor Isidore, a Legal Consultant, pleaded with lawyers to welcome the paralegals to increase access to the legal system for more people, stressing that, it was equally crucial to develop regulations to prevent them from straying too far.
He advocated stringent regulation to define the paralegal scope of practice.