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June 09, 2024

Unlocking the Power of Alternative Dispute Resolution: Beyond Courts and Conflict

Alternative Dispute Resolution Programming in The Gambia

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), as defined by the Resolutions Systems Institute, offers innovative ways to resolve disputes outside traditional courtrooms. But ADR is more than just a method for settling disagreements—it's a philosophy with a vision for global peace and healing. Advocates see ADR as a powerful tool for fostering understanding and harmony in our increasingly complex world. This perspective is especially pertinent to The Gambia, which is undergoing transitional justice and institutional reforms since President Adama Barrow took office in January 2017, ending 22 years of authoritarian rule under Former President Yahya Jammeh. Thus, ADR in The Gambia can positively impact court processes, parties involved, and society, achieving more than a court order might.

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), in collaboration with Freedom House, implements a five-year USAID project titled Promoting Rights and Justice Activity (PRJ). Under this project, ABA ROLI collaborates with the Gambian Judiciary to support program aimed at strengthening The Gambia's justice sector. The PRJ Project supports ADR initiatives with the goal of revitalizing what had been a dormant system. 

In 2022, with PRJ support, the Gambian Judiciary validated the ADR rules, which govern the practice and procedure of Court-Connected ADR in The Gambia. These rules ensure that any terms of settlement from a dispute are binding once filed with the Court Registry. Additionally, PRJ supported sensitization initiatives with judges and lawyers from the Gambia Bar Association regarding these rules.

Sensitization roundtable with Judges on the ADR Rules, June 22, 2023

Sensitization roundtable with Judges on the ADR Rules, June 22, 2023

PRJ then partnered with the Weinstein Foundation and the Edwards Mediation Academy to further achieve revitalization of the ADR system in The Gambia. As of January 2024, with PRJ support, 19 Gambian legal practitioners completed a 40-hour online mediation training with the Edwards Mediation Academy that included live webinars and nine in- person training facilitation sessions. Additionally, in March 2024, PRJ facilitated a one-week Principles of Mediation training session for 28 Superior Court Judges and 20 High Court Registrars with the Edwards Mediation Academy.

19 trained Mediators with the Chief Justice and President of The Gambia Bar Association, May 17, 2024

19 trained Mediators with the Chief Justice and President of The Gambia Bar Association, May 17, 2024

On May 17, 2024, PRJ also supported the organization of an ADR Conference featuring key speakers including Hassan B. Jallow, Chief Justice of The Gambia; Sam Rugege, former Chief Justice of Rwanda; Stephen Lungu, Senior Advocate of Zambia; and Bruce Edwards from the Edwards Mediation Academy. Topics included lawyers' roles in mediation, judges' perspectives on court-connected mediation, insights from Rwanda, and the importance of ethics in mediation.

ADR offers significant benefits, such as reducing case backlogs, lowering litigation costs, and promoting peaceful dispute resolution. These advantages enhance justice system effectiveness and accessibility, aligning with values of fairness, equity, and access to justice. Beyond legal impacts, ADR fosters economic development and stability by creating a conducive business environment and enhancing social cohesion, contributing to The Gambia's sustainable growth and development.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.