Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, the Chief Justice, has said the observance and enforcement of human rights was the key instrument in curbing social and political unrest, promoting law, order and stability in the country.
She said this would create the enabling environment that would attract domestic and foreign direct investment needed for the rapid growth and development of the country.
Mrs Justice Wood said this at the inauguration of the Marian Conflict Resolution Centre and the opening of a five-day training workshop on Conflict Management and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) at the Catholic University College of Ghana at Fiapre.
The programme was organized by Giving to Ghana Foundation International, an NGO, in collaboration with the Catholic University.
Mrs Justice Wood stressed the need for society to devise appropriate approaches to manage conflicts.
She said ADR was a revised version of the traditional approach to conflict management and dispute resolution practiced by chiefs, clans and family heads before the advent of the formal legal and judicial system.
“Strictly speaking ADR, in its strict substantive sense, is not alien to Ghanaians and for that matter Africa. It is a value added and so revised version of their known traditional approach to conflict management and dispute resolution”, the Chief Justice said.
Mrs Wood said the judicial service had adopted a strategic plan for ADR programme with mediators attached to the district, circuit and high courts to assist parties to resolve cases through negotiation, mediation and arbitration.
She said 38 district courts were operating under the court- connected ADR system and had proved beneficial.
“Out of the 5,388 cases referred to the ADR in 2009, 3,871 were settled through mediation while 1,633 cases were settled successfully out of 3,757 cases referred to the ADR in 2010”, the Chief Justice said.
Mrs Justice Wood said with the high illiteracy rate and a large population of the disadvantaged and vulnerable people who could not afford the services of a legal practitioner and where legal aid was virtually non-existent, ADR was essential in promoting and ensuring cost effective justice.
Mr. Kwadwo Nyamekye Marfo, Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, stressed that chieftaincy and land disputes constituted the major conflicts confronting the region.
He said training by the Catholic University College of Ghana, in collaboration with its partners in the United States, was a laudable idea and commended the institutions for the initiative.
“The global consensus on the expected outcomes of ADR mechanisms point to the fact that the qualification and skills of the neutrals are a major factor to achieve good results”, he said.
Professors Nene Amegatcher, a Lecturer at the Ghana School of Law, and Michael Owusu, Coordinator Ghana School of Law, said ADR had become necessary since the courts were unable to keep pace with the demands of the people for justice delivery.
They said more Ghanaians had resorted to the use of the law court for resolution of disputes as most of them had moved out of their villages in pursuit of formal education hence living in cities and big towns where the traditional way of resolving conflicts was inexistent.
Prof James Ephraim, Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University College, said in 2008, 19 delegates from the University visited the USA for lectures on ADR with the aim of preparing individuals who could act as ADR practitioners at the center established at the University’s campus.
He said the centre would prepare the way for the establishment of a law school at the College.
The Most Reverend Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, Catholic Bishop of Sunyani, said conflict resolution techniques were needed to resolve conflicts among political leaders, political parties and other institutions “before they destroy us completely”.