Statement delivered by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Matthew Kahane, on the occasion of Award Ceremony to the Honourable justices of the Supreme Court and Senior Advocates

01 May 2007

Statement delivered by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Matthew Kahane, on the occasion of Award Ceremony to the Honourable justices of the Supreme Court and Senior Advocates
Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Right Honourable Chief Justice, Mr. Dilip Kumar Paudel
Retired Justice and Vice Chair of the Mediation Centre, Mr. Gopal Khatri
Chairperson of the Nepal Bar Association, Mr. Bishwa Kanta Mainali,
Retired Justice Mr. Laxman Prasad Aryal,
Supreme Court Justices, Judges of Supreme and Appellate Courts, senior advocates, legal practitioners,

Distinguishes Representatives of the Government of Nepal, ladies and gentlemen It is a great honour and pleasure for me to address you today on the occasion of the award giving ceremony upon completion of ‘Forty hours of Mediation Training’.

This training represents an important milestone in the broader context of close cooperation between the Government of Nepal and UNDP aimed at delivering speedy justice. The Constitution provides for an open society organized around the principles of fundamental rights, elimination of social and economic inequalities, establishment of harmony among various castes, religions and communities, transparent use of resources and participatory governance and development.

We all know that much time and effort will be required to realize the vision of the Constitution of a society characterized by freedom from want and fear, a society characterized by equality, a society in which each member can realize his and her full potential.

It is in their encounter with the law and their encounter with the courts of law more than in any other area that citizens, feel either supported or let down by the State as a whole. Opinion polls show that a large percentage of the population in Nepal has little confidence in the courts and many feel the delays customarily experienced in tribunals amount to a situation where justice delayed equals justice denied.

With great pleasure let me say here that the Access to Justice Project is one of the most successful Programmes of UNDP over the past five years. The Project was initiated in 2002 using small window of opportunity created at the UNDP Head Quarters – Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund (DGTTF). The seed money to start the Project was given by the DGTTF in 2002.

The court cases mediation programme is one of the main components of this Project. As a piloting the court cases mediation programme was implemented in 19 districts during 2002-2006. The targets of the Programme were 8,450 cases for mediation and 5,560 cases for settlement. Under the Programme, 10,076 cases were successfully mediated and 5,824 cases settled with the mutual consent of the disputing parties. In addition, Programme has been supporting Mediation Centre, Nepal from 2005. The Centre has already mediated 671 cases and settled 126 very old cases in Kathmandu. Settling down about six thousand cases in the last five years is really a significant achievement. These six thousand cases would have taken a long time to pass through the courts at the district level, Appellate and Supreme Courts. We can imagine the time and money saved by mediation.

Many poor and disadvantaged people got relieved from expensive legal processes. For example in 2004, 58% of the total settled cases were related with poor and 52% cases were related with disadvantaged people and 30% cases were related with women. The Programme has trained about 1400 lawyers, judges, social workers and quasi judicial officials out of which 280 were women.

I am proud to say that the impact of the court cases mediation programme led by the UNDP/Access to Justice Programme is now well known among the relevant stakeholders. And, the Supreme Court has demonstrated ‘judicial activism’ in the adoption of legal provisions for the ‘court referred mediation’ in Nepal. I must congratulate all the judges, lawyers, Nepal Bar Association and others who have been part of this initiative. Laws carry only weight and make a difference if they are supported by those who are supposed to apply them.

It’s now been more than five years that UNDP Nepal has been working in the realm of the legal and judicial sector reforms. We will make sure that UNDP’s legal sector programmes are adapted in the context of the changed political situation, as well as in the context of the new constitution and laws. I would like to assure you all that support in legal and justice sector is still high in our agenda and I look very much forward working with you in the future.

I would like to congratulate all the participants for successful completion of the training.

Wish you all the best.

Thank you