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Alternate Dispute Resolution Workshop

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A THREE DAY WORKSHOP HAS BEEN ORGANISED BY THE LEGAL AID SCHEME ON ALTERNATE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR) .

 DATE: 28TH JULY-1ST AUGUST, 2015

VENUE: TYCO CITY HOTEL, SUNYANI, BRONGAHAFO REGION

SPONSOR: UNDP GHANA

 

INTRODUCTION

The Legal Aim Scheme (LAS), believes human resource is the most important asset of the organization. It is therefore committed to continuous training as an integral part of the Scheme’s development of staff to utilize their potential. As part of the implementation of the training plan, the Scheme intends to organize trainings for all the three main categories of its staff across the country. The categories are; Management Staff and Lawyers; the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) staff; and the Administrative and Clerical staff.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR),was the first category of staff to benefit from the training workshop on Leadership and Management of Legal Aid for managers and administrators under the LAS and sponsored by the UNDP. The workshop took place from 28th July to 1stAugust 2015,at Sunyani -BrongAhafo Region.

The training programme intended at training Management and Administrative personnel of the Scheme to ensure efficient and cost effective management of the Legal Aid Scheme in accordance to the Guide for Legal Aid Delivery in Ghana.

 

 

PURPOSE & OBJECTIVES:

  • To enhance staff skills in providing efficient and effective services to clients guided by professional standards.
  • To harmonize the Scheme’s services such that LAS offices across the country use the same procedure, materials and stipulated time for service delivery in order to provide satisfactory service delivery to all clients.
  • To provide participants with leadership and management skills.
  • To equip participants with needed knowledge on the law and structure of the Legal Aid Scheme.
  • To agree on the Scheme’s client service delivery charter, signed by all ADR staff, which would be made available to clients to assess staff performance.

 

 

OUTPUT (S) ACHIEVED:

Through presentations, discussions, daily recap of activities, and mandatory individual contributions during the workshop, the following were achieved:

  • Staff management and leadership skills were enhanced.
  • Top-down/bottom-up communication among staff and clients of the Scheme improved.
  • Enhanced professional skills of staff for the provision of efficient and effective Legal Aid Services to clients
  • Increased knowledge of the importance of outreach programmes on Legal Aid Delivery in the regions and districts where Legal aid offices are located
  • Improved knowledge in the Scheme’s history, constitutional mandate of LAS and ADR staff, and professional standards in legal aid delivery.
  • The mediation process:

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PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS OF ADR PERSONNEL

The intake of a client, invitation to respondent, setup of the mediation environment and seating arrangement of the parties, explaining the mediation process to the parties, agreeing to rules before mediation process, facilitating communication between the parties in order for them to reach voluntary agreementand possible challenges were discussed.

  • Skills and guidelines:

The three stages of mediation (Pre-mediation, Pre-meditation, Post-mediation), adhering to ethics of mediation by ADR, skills for effective mediators, ground rules to consider for mediation, confidentiality, transparency, impartiality, conflict of interest, self-determination of agreement reached by the parties during mediation and guidelines for successful mediation were conferred.

           

 

PROBLEM/CONFLICT IDENTIFICATION AND SOLVING/RESOLUTION SKILLS

  • Problem/conflict identification:

To identify a problem, two basic questions should be answered. First, if there is actually a problem, and second, if the said problem can be identified by other people. Problem identification is a major issue which must be analysed critically with logical conclusion reached before action is taking to solve the problem. This is because a problem perceived could actually become ‘specification error’ meaning, the problem identified was based on assumption rather than facts. When a problem is actually identified, the extent of the problem/conflict and its severity determines strategies for the resolution.

  • Resolution skills:

Under this, it was said that you need to be specific about the problem. Emotional maturity was important for dealing with the issue. Quickly relieve stress, recognise and manage your emotions and self-control. Non-verbal communication speaks volumes hence must be managed properly so as not to destroy the chances of resolution. Use humour and play to deal with challenges, focus on the benefits of the relationship, and be willing to forgive. Resolution is two-way communication, it is important to listen to the other person’s side of the issue.

 

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PROVIDING CHECKS AND BALANCES TO AVOID OR ADDRESS PROBLEMS IN ADR DELIVERY

The ADR process (Reality and Ideal) – An assessment of practice so far:                      

Institutional problems:

  • Setup for mediation is not conducive for clients to open up on confidential matters
  • Several LAS district offices have only one staff member which is not ideal.
  • Lack of resources for effective service delivery for instance funds for follow-ups on issues after resolution and electricity recharge.
  • Language barrier
  • Awareness creation, publicity of activities and branding of Legal Aid Scheme is almost non-existence making the public not to understand LAS operations.
  • There is a gap between ADR staff and the Legal staff, thus affecting competence.
  • Emotional attachment to some cases.
  • Some respondents do not honour the settlement agreements.
  • Sometimes, clients and respondents downplay the intelligence of ADR because of age and status of the clients.
  • Serving invitation to respondent.
  • ADR’s do not usually allow the parties to subject themselves to mediation. They impose it on them contrary to the mediation guidelines.
  • There is no harmonization in the ADR process across the country.
  • No client service account to deposit monies collected on behalf of clients.

Operational problems:

Balances:                                                                                                                                            

  • The scheme will open a client service account.
  • LAS customer service delivery will be harmonised in all its offices.
  • Client service charter for feedback will be put in place.
  • Regular appraisal of staff would be enforced.
  • Guidelines for ADR delivery was reached.
  • Providing quality service delivery to clients in the performance of LAS duties using specified requirements.
  • Increase client’s confidence through quality service delivery such that LAS becomes the preferred choice for conflict resolution through the ADR mechanism.
  • Making sure service provided is consistent in all LAS office using principles such as Self-determination in ADR by clients, impartiality and confidentiality requirements etc.
  • Assess the quality assurance process through mechanisms such as Peer review, Self-Evaluation, Performance indicators, Client satisfaction, Feedback, Procedural compliance.

 

 

QUALITY ASSURANCE, FEEDBACK AND RESPONSE

  • The Scheme can get feedback of its service delivery by means of feedback boxes, open channels of communication and reaching out directly to clients.
  • It is important to respond to feedback. Acknowledge the feedback and take appropriate action if required.
    • A work plan is a framework of goals and processes used as a guide to execute a project. Participants were taking through various steps and items to consider in designing a work plan particularly for LAS duties and activities.
    • Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, therefore everyone is equal and so must be treated as such, societal inequalities exist. For this reason, not everyone has equal access to justice. The Legal Aid Scheme’s mandate is to provide free legal aid services to vulnerable and less privileged people. The scheme’s services cover all citizens (nationals and foreigners in Ghana) who have a need to act on or respond to any constitutional matter. It provides legal aid on all criminal matters and some selected civil cases.  
    • Civic engagement entails outreach programmes in the communities LAS staffs work in. It involves so many forms such as political, social, economic, legal, cultural and technological. The focus of the Scheme is on women. This is because women are vulnerable and disadvantaged, lack access to information than men and face discrimination due to cultural practices and beliefs. LAS records show that women report to LAS more than any other group in Ghana. The strategies for civic engagement by the ADR staff were discussed using flip chart for explanation. Benefits of these engagements include; increased visibility, enhance the overall mission and vision of the Scheme, builds community trust among other things.
    • Team building is a process where unity among a workgroup becomes enhanced. With this, members work in unison to achieve set targets. It fosters trust and increases support to the group by all members. To this end, the ADR staff was encouraged to promote team building through various means and strategies at all levels in order to achieve the Schemes goals as well as build a “family’ relationship.The need for good communication among the staff was reiterated.
    • The ADR staff was encouraged to do volunteer work in their communities because; it strengthens the Scheme’s connections, enhances excellent public services and career development as well as facilitates motivation by management.

 

CLOSING REMARKS

The Executive Director congratulated participants and facilitators for a successful workshop. He charged the ADR staff to apply skills learnt at the workshop, adding regular appraisal will be instituted to ensure target set is achieved.

He encouraged the staff to read the Guide for Legal Aid Delivery in order to be abreast with the Scheme’s standards for quality client serviced delivery.

He reminded the staff that children’s issues cannot be compromised because they are vulnerable.

 

CORRECTIVE ACTION PROPOSED

  • Confidentiality – no information, document or evidence during mediation should be submitted to any court of disclosed to any person or group of persons under any circumstances.
  • ADR staff should report lawyers who demand for money from clients.
  • Disclosure of interest in a case by ADR should be done prior to the beginning of the mediation process.
  • Mediation should be done in private setting without other staff present apart from the mediator.
  • Team building should be adopted in every office and among all ADR staff in the country through face-to-face meetings and the use of social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
  • All staff should take personally initiatives to achieve LAS goals.
  • Peer review mechanisms to be implemented but self-assessment of one’s performance should be done regularly.
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