Annual Judicial Conference in Zambia – Enhancing Capacities for Improved Access to Justice

The annual Judicial Conference of the Judiciary of Zambia brings together adjudicators from across all the courts. This year, the Conference took place on December 17-19, 2019 at Avani Victoria Falls Resort in Livingstone. Seventy Judges of the Superior Courts, namely the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court attended. Other participants comprised fifty Magistrates from the Subordinate Courts and Local Courts, as well as thirty administrative staff. In addition, the President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, attended the conference as its guest of honor.

The annual Judicial Conference is a very important occasion in the judicial calendar because it serves as a forum for adjudicators to address key issues affecting the administration of justice in Zambia. The conference also affords its adjudicators an excellent opportunity to consider the performance of the judiciary as the year closes, as well as plan for the future. This year, the conference theme was “Enhancing Capacities for Improved Access to Justice” and focused on areas that build on the competencies and tools of adjudicators from across the country.

Conference focus included mediation

Notable among the conference topics, is the subject of mediation, which the Zambian judiciary has been using as a tool to combat case backlog and ensure the speedy settlement of disputes. With the support of the Weinstein International Foundation, 50 Magistrates undertook an intensive three-day training workshop on mediation. Coming at a time when the judiciary has just extended court-annexed mediation to the Subordinate Courts, the training enriched court-annexed mediation in the country.

The conference further allowed participants to comparatively examine and benefit from mediation models from other jurisdictions. Board Directors Judge Ann Claire Williams and Leonardo D’Urso from the Weinstein International Foundation and its Senior Fellows from Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa shared mediation experiences from their countries. Representing Nigeria were Senior Fellows Ugochinyelu Anidi and Hauwa Yakubu. Senior Fellows Judge Harrison Mutabazi and Bernadette Uwicyeza participated on behalf of Rwanda. Senior Fellow Pat Mkhize from South Africa also attended.

Having the Senior Fellows and Weinstein International Foundation Board members present was key in in establishing mediation as a primary focus for the conference. Both the Chief Justice and the President of the Republic of Zambia reiterated the need for the judiciary to promote ADR to enhance the effectiveness of court-annexed mediation. The diverse experiences of the Foundation’s team members regarding the challenges they have faced and how they are addressing these challenges broadened the learning and was appreciated by the conference participants. The conference also emphasized the great opportunity that such joint programs with Senior Fellows from other countries can provide in raising the profile of mediation in each other’s countries and in the long run, contributing to mediation’s beneficial impact at the regional level.

By Judge Mugeni Siwale Mulenga, Chairperson Training Committee, Conference Organizing Committee/Senior Fellow, Weinstein International Foundation

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