Experts highlight role of Alternative Dispute Resolution in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the United Nations

Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC), the first and only registered Alternative Dispute Resolution institution of the country organised its 14th webinar from a virtual platform on 22 June 2021 on ‘’How ADR Can Achieve SDG-16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’’, jointly with its partner organisation, the Accord Chambers, one of Bangladesh’s notable law firms to promote the use of institutional ADR.

Taking part in the deliberations an eminent Panel of Speakers from home and abroad representing academicians, business leaders, the legal fraternity and Non Government Organisations suggested that in the pursuit to achieve United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-16, ensuring access to justice is a crucial component for peace, justice and strong institutions. Experts suggested that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms are now vital and inseparable justice options. ADR is such an alternative that encompasses various dispute resolution techniques and mechanisms that are alternative to full-scale court processes, they opined.

Chairman of the BIAC Board Mahbubur Rahman, who is also President of International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh, in his Closing Remarks said that in our country justice-seekers tussle with some economic, social and institutional barriers in accessing formal judicial system. Widening access to justice depends upon extending some facilities to the litigants and empowering them to overcome those barriers, he continued. In the present day context of Bangladesh ADR can help achieve SDG 16 with a view to promoting Peace, Justice  and Strong Institutions worldwide, integrating its methods, e.g., arbitration, mediation, negotiation, conciliation, etc. with the existing judicial system, Mahbubur Rahman categorised. He also stressed on the need of an institution like BIAC to promote local businesses as well as to invite more Foreign Direct Investment for overall development of the country’s economy while we are graduating to a Developing Country by the year 2026.

In his Welcome Address Chief Executive Officer of BIAC Muhammad A. (Rumee) Ali insisted on effective and executable justice delivery system and said that access to justice is denied owing to high cost and inordinate delay in litigation. He maintained that ADR can be a regulatory parallel to the judicial system. Ali categorised that ADR mechanisms are now vital and inseparable justice options which provide critical pathways to justice, though they often receive insufficient attention from policymakers, justice sector professionals and legal practitioners. He also favoured ADR as a dispute resolution mechanism for a cost-effective and timely justice delivery service.

Mamun Chowdhury, Senior Partner of Accord Chambers and Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh also delivered Welcome Address on behalf of his organisation and emphasised that securing rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice for all citizens is enshrined in the very Preamble of our Constitution. It is now also echoed in UN’s SDG-16. ADR can play a key role in achieving it by creating new avenues towards access to justice in a less time-consuming manner, Chowdhury affirmed.

Taking part in the discussion Panellist Dr. M. Mahfuzul Haque,   Assistant Professor, South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG), North South University, Dhaka                                                                                                   said that the Sustainable Development Dashboard 2021indicates that for Bangladesh to achieve SDG16, major challenges remain and the progresses are stagnating. Therefore, more awareness building among citizens and streamlining the governing instruments for arbitration may well advance progress on SDG 16, Dr. Haque opined.

Tareq Rafi Bhuiyan (Jun), Secretary General  & Director, Japan Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director, New Vision Solutions Ltd., Dhaka spoke on the occasion as a Panellist and stressed on the importance of good governance and ensuring access to justice to attract foreign investors. Strong ADR infrastructure will give comfort to investors worldwide and create a business-friendly environment so that foreign investors feel confident about entering the Bangladesh market, Jun said emphatically.

Barrister SK Jenefa K Jabbar, Director, Human Rights and Legal Aid Services, Social Compliance and Safeguarding, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), Dhaka in her deliberations gave an account of BRAC’s programmes of providing free ADR support to people coming from marginalised and vulnerable conditions through its legal aid clinics across 61 districts of Bangladesh. She said that about two thirds of the complaints received at BRAC HRLS programme were resolved through ADR including Online Dispute Resolution methods.

Gowree Gokhale, Partner, Nishith Desai Associates, Mumbai, India, speaking as a Panellist, shared insights about how India is promoting ADR as part of its drive to secure rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice. She also referred to some of the notable progress the country has made in strengthening its arbitration institutions.

Barrister Suhan Khan FCIArb, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Managing Partner, Accord Chambers, Dhaka took part in the discussion and opined that limited access to justice remains a great threat to Sustainable Development. Developed countries are gradually moving away from traditional litigation due to the costs, delay and complexities involved. Arbitration and mediation must be embraced by Bangladesh to compete in the race of development, Khan insisted. He further emphasised on the significance of introducing institutional arbitration in Government contracts and public sector agreements.

M A Akmall Hossain Azad, Director of BIAC moderated the webinar. Summing up the discussions he said that the webinar has facilitated to identify ongoing risks, challenges and necessary safeguards to develop appropriate legal, policy and implementation frameworks, taking into account international and regional standards on the rule of law.

The programme was streamed live on FACEBOOK page and LinkedIn profile of BIAC. The daily Bonik Barta was the media partner of the event.