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Global Pound Conference will encompass all forms of dispute resolution, says Justice Phillips

By Joseph Onyekwere   |   28 June 2016   |   2:20 am
 Justice Phillips

Justice Phillips

The Global Pound Conference (GPC) Series scheduled to hold on June 30, 2016 in Lagos is a series of conferences taking place in over 40 cities across 30 countries globally. It is aimed at creating a modern conversation about what can be done to improve access to justice and the quality of justice around the world in civil and commercial conflicts. The approach involves engaging all stakeholders in the field of dispute prevention and resolution worldwide through locally-based events. Participants will gather data intended to enable the dispute resolution market and all participants to consider whether there are reasons (and if so how) to adapt existing services to be optimally aligned to disputants’ needs and means. In this interview by JOSEPH ONYEKWERE, the former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ayotunde Phillips, who is the chair of the local organising committee, speaks on the significance of the conference and other issues.

Who is behind the Global Pound Conference?
The GPC Series is being organized by the International Mediation Institute (IMI), with the active support of many leading international groups involved in dispute resolution. This regional Africa GPC event is being led by the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG) International, an independent, non-governmental organization committed to the promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms as the default means of conflict management. NCMG International began in Nigeria in 1996 but has since translated, due to global demands and opportunities, into an international brand with major focus on promoting and advocating for world peace and conflict management within the African continent.

How was this conference conceived?
In April 1976, the seminal event that led to the birth of modern dispute resolution systems was the Pound Conference in St Paul, Minnesota, USA. Named in honour of Roscoe Pound, the reforming Dean of Harvard Law School in the 1920s and 30s. The theme of the original Pound Conference was: Agenda for 2000AD – The Need for Systematic Anticipation”. It was proposed then that alternative forms of dispute resolution should be used to reduce reliance on conventional litigation, and overcome reluctance to use other dispute resolution options. This led to many changes in the US justice system, including the creation of the “multi-door courthouse” to provide more procedural choices to disputants.

The rest of the world followed suit and embraced the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms towards improving, and in some cases creating, access to justice. Forty years since, the original Pound Conference, stakeholders in the dispute resolution field around the world are fragmented. There is also lack of reliable, comparative and actionable data to enable the supply side of the dispute resolution market to fully meet users’ needs, both locally and internationally. This affects private persons, families, communities, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), multinationals, governments, domestic and international entities and a wide range of additional stakeholders who are involved in civil or commercial disputes. The theme for the GPC Series is “Shaping the Future of Dispute Resolution & Improving Access to Justice”.

What led to the choice of this theme?
In essence, the Conference series will encompass all forms of dispute resolution, including litigation, arbitration, conciliation, and mediation. One of the goals of this series is to consider how disputants in civil and commercial conflicts can select and have access to appropriate dispute resolution processes that respond to their needs and are also proportionate in terms of costs, time, possible outcomes and enforceability, as well as the impact that disputes have on reputations, relationships, and other social or cultural issues that may concern disputants.

What are some of the ways in which NCMG international has impacted ADR in Africa?
NCMG International has been on the vanguard of ADR development in Africa, and continues to advance the frontiers of this relatively new industry. Some of NCMG international’s achievements include setting up of the Lagos Multidoor Courthouse, Africa’s first court-connected ADR center, which model has now been replicated across over a dozen states in Nigeria. NCMG international, through its partnership with the University of Lagos, has also championed the creation of the College of Negotiation, which offers a robust curriculum to build negotiation skills and capacity amongst its faculty. Other projects being pioneered by NCMG International include the Supreme Court Mediation Center, the Court of Appeal Mediation Center, the Lagos International Mediation Institute and the Lagos State International Mediation Academy amongst many others.Overall, NCMG international maintains its reputation and position at the forefront of ADR in Africa through strategic collaboration and partnership with relevant institutions across Europe, America and the African continent, including the Centre for Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (CADER), Uganda, Conflict Dynamics, South Africa, the African Mediation Association (AfMA), Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) UK, ADR Centre, Rome, California State University, World Bank and the British Council.

What is your connection with NCMG International and the GPC Series?
Upon my retirement from the bench as the Chief Judge of Lagos State, and due to the efforts I made to promote alternative dispute resolution in Lagos, I was appointed as the Chairman of NCMG International and by virtue of that, was also nominated to chair the Local Organizing Committee of Lagos Global Pound Conference.

What is the format for the GPC?
The Conference will consist of a series of meetings around a common group of core questions using a global information technology platform that will be available through the internet. This will enable all stakeholders involved in civil and commercial dispute resolution to compare preferences and beliefs regarding different procedural options (e.g., litigation, arbitration, conciliation and mediation) and explore how to determine what processes are best appropriate in different circumstances, and how such processes can be made more accessible. Participation at each location will be in person and voting opportunities will subsequently be provided online, as a series of focus-group-type meetings. All registered delegates, both in person and online, will have individual voting capabilities and will be able to identify themselves as belonging to one of 4 stakeholder groups: (i) users; (ii) advisors; (iii) providers; and (iv) miscellaneous stakeholders involved in dispute resolution (the Four Stakeholder Groups).The electronic data gathered during each event will be presented instantly and analysed by a representative panel of stakeholders, including independent academics.

Why is the GPC unique?
The GPC Series will generate reliable data from thousands of users, providers, advisors and miscellaneous stakeholders worldwide that can be compared and acted upon. A full report consolidating and comparing the results of all GPC events will be prepared based on the data collected during the series and reviewed by a committee of independent academics chaired by Prof. Barney Jordaan. This report will be available free of charge, and will focus on the key take-home messages generated regarding what actions could and should be taken to improve access to justice, both locally and internationally. NCMG International will undertake local and regional follow-up based on the actionable data generated by the event. This may include dialogue with policy makers and regulators, judiciaries, educators, NGOs and other special interest groups. These results and follow-up actions will hopefully stimulate research, knowledge, creativity, innovation and growth in the use of dispute resolution systems in the 21st century domestically, regionally and internationally, thus improving access to justice not only through court systems, but also through professional dispute resolution services that are in tune with cultural and case-specific needs.

What are the expectations at the end of the conference?
We expect that both the users and advisors and everybody else know more about arbitration and fashioned out more ways and means to make it more effective. I’m sure a report will be issued by the IMI, that is the International Mediation Institute.
Who and who is expected in this conference and are there fees to be paid?
Yes, N50,000 registration fee and when you start, there is an app because there is going to be a voting at the end of each session to know whether the thing is working and how people feel about it. We expect judges, arbitrators, engineers, estate valuers, lawyers, doctors and commercial users, big companies and others who are interested in arbitration.

When is the GPC taking place across the world?
The first GPC event took place in Singapore on March 17-18, 2016. The next event is the West, Central and East Africa event taking place in Lagos, Nigeria on June 30, 2016. All other GPC events across the world, in over 40 cities and across 30 countries, will take place over the course of 2016 and 2017 with the final event in July, 2017 in London, UK. To take part in the Lagos Global Pound Conference, kindly visit www.GPCSeries.com/Lagos to register or contact Andi Daze on 07067085375 or a.daze@ainablankson.com.

How do you allay the fear of lawyers who think that ADR will take away legal fees from them?
It doesn’t work that way. From what I observed, the fees they charge in arbitration far exceeds what they charge for litigation. So arbitration is a faster way of settling their cases and it gives them time to handle other matters as well. They earn more fees as far as I am concerned than they would do in litigation. In fact, they get paid more for doing less in arbitration. So those lawyers that fear that arbitration is taking away from them are totally misled.

What do you think of the anti-corruption campaign with regards to the recent bribery allegations against judicial officers?
The NJC to my mind is doing a fantastic job. Anybody who is reported, investigated and found culpable is dealt with immediately. And the NJC is the only body in this country that can deal with judges who have been alleged to have erred in one way or the other. Sitting judges can help by dispensing judgment very quickly. Right or wrong, hear the evidence from day to day and write your judgment so it won’t be too protracted. That is if the lawyers will allow that by not filing so many frivolous applications.

What are you bringing to Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC)?
I’m now in different area. I’m in totally uncharted waters. But my knowledge of administration will help me a lot in coming to LASIEC. I’m envisaging building an institution that all the other states in the federation will emulate.

Lagos is the centre of excellence; whatever we do in Lagos, others follow. So God being my helper, I will study what I have on ground and build on what my predecessors have started in addition to conducting free and fair elections.




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