Mainstreaming Alternative Dispute Resolution for Equitable Access in Pakistan

Program Year: 2020

By Syed Abbas Hussain

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is attracting increasing attention, especially since Pakistan’s formal legal system is overwhelmed with cases. Many marginalized persons, especially those in impoverished communities and women, find it difficult to access the legal system in Pakistan due to the stigma attached to approaching courts, inability to afford lawyers, and difficulty in understanding court procedures. The goal of the Mainstreaming Alternative Dispute Resolution for Equitable Access to Justice in Pakistan project is to mainstream ADR mechanisms in the legal and judicial systems of Pakistan. ADR helps facilitate broad-based access to equitable justice, especially for vulnerable communities.

The project has forged linkages with key stakeholders related to ADR in Pakistan and overseas, across different sectors such as the judiciary, bar associations and academia. The Foundation has worked closely with the Punjab and Sindh Judiciary and their respective judicial academies. Capacity building is a key component of this initiative. In that regard, judicial officers from Punjab and Sindh have been successfully trained on ADR mechanisms using local and international best practices. Additionally, to seek buy in of lawyers and bar associations, sensitization workshops have been conducted. The Foundation has also provided infrastructure in the form of IT equipment and furniture to establish ADR centers in select districts of Sindh.

Under the ADR project, a specialized curriculum on ADR was developed for undergraduate law students in collaboration with local and international experts. The course has been taught in the Foundation’s partnering law schools including International Islamic University Islamabad and Kinnaird College for Women Lahore. Moreover, to enable students to expand and critically evaluate the discourse on ADR, the project has supported academic research in these law schools.

Public outreach efforts have focused on raising awareness on ADR through a range of communication outputs. These include documentaries, animations, Information Education Communication (IEC) materials, blogs and social media creatives.

Many destitute litigants have benefited from ADR. Fida Hussain, a laborer from a small district in Punjab, was involved in a family dispute that had been pending trial for years. The daily wage earner struggled to cope with the pressure of managing his work in the face of endless court hearings. Being referred to an ADR center was a boon for him as his longstanding dispute was resolved through mediation within a short span of time.

 
 
Related locations: Pakistan

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