In a statement released by the conference titled "Alternative Dispute Resolution in Palestine: Enhancing Access to Justice and Security," held in collaboration between REFORM and the Ministry of Justice:
The participants put forward recommendations to facilitate the implementation of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods across Palestine, including Area "C" and advocated for the establishment of arbitration units within local authorities. They also stressed the significance of raising awareness about the utilisation of ADR methods and empowering women to engage in these approaches.
Wednesday, 24th May 2023
Ramallah- Given the challenges faced by Palestinians in accessing justice and security, compounded by the geographical and regional divisions resulting from the Oslo Agreement, a substantial portion of Palestinian lands now lie beyond the legal jurisdiction of Palestine. This situation has hindered many Palestinian citizens from accessing justice in all its facets. The accumulation of cases in Palestinian courts, limited in capacity and the number of available judges to resolve disputes among citizens, has resulted in protracted litigation and the recycling of cases on an annual basis. The conference on alternative dispute resolution aims to underscore the need to enhance access to justice and security for citizens. ADR methods are pivotal in resolving various disputes within a suitable timeframe, free from the complexities and delays associated with formal legal procedures. Moreover, keeping pace with legal developments that highlight the importance of employing ADR methods is crucial to support the formal judiciary in efficiently and expertly resolving disputes.
The participants and attendees advocate for the promotion of ADR methods through the implementation of policies that facilitate their usage. It is also imperative to raise citizens' awareness regarding their application, particularly in areas beyond the legal jurisdiction. This entails facilitating the establishment of arbitration units and ADR mechanisms within local authorities. Additionally, there is a need to enhance access to justice components for vulnerable and marginalised groups and empower women, specifically through the utilisation of ADR methods in Palestine.
The conference, titled "Alternative Dispute Resolution in Palestine: Enhancing Access to Justice and Security," organised by the Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development - REFORM in collaboration with the Palestinian Ministry of Justice and the Sawasya Joint Program through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) took place in Ramallah on Wednesday, May 24th. It brought together numerous local partners, practitioners and experts in alternative dispute resolution methods, as well as representatives from local authorities and women's organisations. Dignitaries in attendance included His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Al-Shalaldeh, the Minister of Justice; Her Excellency Dr. Amal Hamad, the Minister of Women's Affairs in Palestine; Dr. Khaled Ishtayeh, the Assistant Undersecretary for the Local Bodies Affairs at the Ministry of Local Government; and Dr. Christopher Decker, the Director of the Sawasya Joint Programme. Legal experts specialising in conflict management and resolution, arbitrators and practitioners of ADR methods also participated.
During its first session, the conference deliberated on the significance of ADR methods in areas beyond the legal jurisdiction of Palestine. It underscored the importance of employing alternative methods such as arbitration and mediation as supportive frameworks for the formal judiciary, emphasising their role in upholding human dignity, promoting civil harmony, the rule of law and safeguarding human rights, while considering gender equality. The conference aimed to enhance access to efficient justice and consolidate citizenship by establishing an alternative legal and judicial framework independent of Israeli military courts, to which Palestinians have been subjected to for decades. This framework strives to bolster the citizens’ abilities in areas beyond the legal jurisdiction of Palestine to safeguard their individual and collective rights. The conference sought to propose alternatives that amplify the utilisation of ADR methods, encouraging citizens to resort to mediation and arbitration as effective tools in resolving their disputes and enhancing the skills of ADR practitioners in those regions.
During the second session, the participants explored the role of women in arbitration and discussed alternative dispute resolution methods. They also examined the challenges that prevent women from participating in conflict resolution, including cultural, societal and structural factors that limit their ability to manage and resolve disputes. A significant identified barrier was the lack of awareness among women regarding alternative dispute resolution methods, particularly in regions dominated by tribal and clan cultures where the rule of law is absent.
In the third and final session, the participants focused on the effectiveness of establishing arbitration and mediation units in local authorities, drawing on the experience of chambers of commerce. They emphasised the importance of creating active and vibrant local units in the Palestinian territories, considering the geographical and regional divisions. These units would help reduce the backlog of cases before courts and provide an alternative to tribal solutions or self-assertion for resolving commercial, financial, inheritance and contractual disputes. By applying arbitration and mediation standards, these units can contribute to conflict resolution. The discussions also highlighted the role of chambers of commerce in resolving commercial disputes.
The participants emphasised the need for a legal analysis to assess the feasibility of establishing arbitration units within local authorities and the implementation of their powers under Article 15 of Law No. 1 of 1997 concerning local authorities. This analysis should also address potential disputes that may arise among citizens as a result of implementing these powers.
Based on the inputs, discussions and deliberations, the conference reached the following recommendations:
Regarding enhancing the use of alternative dispute resolution methods in areas outside the legal jurisdiction, the conference recommended:
·Establishing institutional units specialised in alternative dispute resolution in accordance with existing laws in Palestine to challenge Israeli control over these areas and promote access to justice for residents living outside the legal jurisdiction.
· Accelerating the adoption of the Mediation Law.
· Developing and providing guidance materials that explain the concept of alternative dispute resolution, how citizens can resort to these methods, the mechanisms involved and the key stakeholders who could implement these approaches.
· Training and professional education for practitioners of alternative dispute resolution methods in areas outside the legal jurisdiction to promote a qualitative shift in the adoption of these methods.
· Integrating tribal mediators operating in areas outside the legal jurisdiction by enhancing their capacity and qualifications, enabling them to become legal arbitrators issuing arbitral decisions that align with legal provisions and respect human rights principles.
· Legalising tribal discourse in a manner consistent with the legal and human rights framework to renew the tribal discourse in areas outside the legal jurisdiction.
· Supporting women's involvement in alternative dispute resolution methods, particularly arbitration, in areas outside the legal jurisdiction.
· Fostering continued partnership between civil society institutions, government agencies and relevant entities to address the situation of women in the field of alternative dispute resolution. This can be achieved through joint programmes and projects in areas outside the legal jurisdiction.
· Raising awareness among residents in areas outside the legal jurisdiction through conferences, seminars, workshops and legal sessions to emphasise the importance of alternative dispute resolution methods.
Regarding the effectiveness of establishing arbitration and mediation units in local bodies, the conference recommended:
· Establishing arbitration and mediation units in local bodies to alleviate the judicial backlog experienced by Palestinian courts.
· Reviewing the Arbitration Law and procedural laws to meet the needs of local bodies and support the establishment of these units.
· Conducting awareness campaigns to raise awareness about arbitration and alternative dispute resolution methods in local authorities.
· Enhancing the knowledge of personnel in local bodies, especially in legal departments, about the importance of arbitration as a recourse in cases of disputes.
· Educating and training arbitrators in all fields and equipping them with the necessary skills to resolve disputes according to the law.
· Promoting collaboration between local bodies, civil society institutions and centres working in the field of arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.
· The establishment of arbitration units in local authorities should not impose a financial burden, as qualified individuals can be trained and utilised for arbitration purposes.
In terms of enhancing the presence and role of women in the field of alternative dispute resolution, the conference recommended:
· Promoting the role of media and allocating programmes to raise awareness about the importance of arbitration and the role of women in dispute resolution.
· Providing awareness, education and professional training programmes tailored to camps and villages to raise women's awareness and enhance their capacities in alternative dispute resolution methods, while promoting knowledge about rights and freedoms and dispelling misconceptions about limited gender roles.
· Enhancing the political and social roles of Palestinian women, particularly in local and community mediation.
· Developing specialised programmes on alternative dispute resolution through workshops and seminars for women with less experience in arbitration, aiming to empower them and enhance their capacities in this field.
· Expanding the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Ministry of Justice and providing it with the necessary financial resources and funding to establish courses and projects that contribute to the development of arbitration and the qualification of women arbitrators. These programmes should be distributed across different time frames and stages to cover all Palestinian territories and include a significant number of women interested in working in the field of arbitration.
· Establishing partnerships between Palestinian universities, centres and institutions working in the field of arbitration. This is done with the aim of providing training programmes for students within tracks that develop their understanding and analysis of conflicts within alternative dispute resolution methods, promote concepts of gender equality and children's rights in using alternative dispute resolution methods, as well as develop the capacities and technical skills of arbitrators and community mediators.
· Highlighting successful and pioneering models of women working in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution fields to generalise these experiences and encourage engagement in arbitration.
End of Statement.