By Chidimma Onyiaorah
Reigstrar, Abuja Chamber of Commerce Dispute Resolution Centre (ACCI-DRC)
One of the most overlooked areas, which must be addressed, as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) evolves, is the importance of educating and empowering a new generation of emerging practitioners. Some universities and institutions currently offer post graduate degrees and diplomas for students interested in ADR.
However, if the focus is solely on postgraduate opportunities, we have failed to communicate the importance of other ADR processes to a significant number of university students who graduate without appreciating that there are other legitimate and effective forms of dispute resolution other than litigation.
Along with any innovation and development comes a new challenge, and with that a new method to deal with it. Unsurprisingly, the segment of dispute resolution is no different from the others and also needs to rapidly adapt to the fast paced developments in the world of international commerce.
After years of litigation reigning in the world of dispute resolution, Arbitration, Mediation, Negotiation and other forms of ADR are becoming more recognized and this, no doubt, affects the requirement for specialized training and practice in numerous ways.
In order to follow this new “legal” trend, training and re-training is inevitable to those wishing to keep up with the emerging trends and to satisfy current or future client’s needs. This is a sure way of refocusing capacity or strengthening same. In this case, there is need to discover the skills set of these practitioners, upskill and reskill them.
ADR in the conflict resolution process has, over the years, been down-played as legal education foists on students the inevitability of learning the law through legal principles.
Justice Opeyemi Oke of the Lagos High Court, as she then was, while delivering a keynote address at Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Training on ADR a few years ago, underscored the need for this radical change and stressed that ADR should be taught in the universities and the law school to help de-emphasize litigation. She said “Enhancing the conflict resolution processes deserves a legal education that imparts the necessary skills that can prepare practitioners including lawyers, judges and policy makers for their tasks.”
When this is done, the conflict resolution processes will have a positive effect on our justice delivery system in terms of service that will be provided by conflict resolution practitioners, not only to their clients and users of ADR, but most importantly to the society at large.
In Nigeria, research already shows that Alternative Dispute Resolution is rarely taught in the Universities as a course or even part of a course but as post graduate courses. In Law schools, ADR is barely expatiated on as another way of dispute resolution. This, in my opinion has necessitated that efforts are injected into this area to make for expeditious ventilation on disputes.
I believe it is important that ADR mechanisms are not only taught as post graduate courses but for it to be taught in the universities and the Nigerian Law School to build capacity in dispute resolution. Students also need to be brought to light, the career opportunities in ADR; from being Arbitrators, Mediators to Tribunal Secretaries even before graduation. This will encourage them to build their career parts early in this field if interested.
Many international and local ADR Institutions have realized this gap and the need for skilling, reskilling and even upskilling practitioners in ADR and have since continued to offer relevant trainings to bridge these gaps.
The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) has over the years provided trainings to individuals in Arbitration and other specialized ADR courses who thereafter are certified as Arbitrators.
The Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, (ICMC) Nigeria has also embarked on the mission with a vision to offer trainings on Mediation and mediation techniques. Further, the Institute realizing the need and importance for lawyers and indeed law students to be provided with knowledge of Mediation as an Alternative to Litigation have collaborated with the Nigerian Law School to offer these trainings to law students.
In the same light, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce Dispute Resolution Centre (ACCI-DRC) has diversified its target audience for ADR training. In addition to offering postgraduate trainings in ADR, the Centre is working towards delivering trainings to Law schools and universities on ADR, most particularly on ADR Registry and Secretarial Services; an aspect of ADR which is mostly ignored. These developments will no doubt bring the needed changes and awareness on ADR. Indeed more has to be done and more will be done.
The further growth of ADR depends greatly on collaboration, interdependence and genuine reform at a grassroots level.
Moving forward, there is need to form more meaningful partnerships with academic institutions, ADR institutes and encourage the emerging generation of practitioners to form and lead new societies and associations. This will ensure a workable partnership which will impact positively on the fortunes of all concerned.