Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“Effective and Impartial Justice System is Critical…” - Kolley

Emphasis on the Need for Public Confidence in The Gambian Judiciary 

VOL:1 ISSN:41 An effective, efficient and impartial justice system is critical to economic growth and development, as well as poverty reduction, the Finance Minister said of The Gambian Judiciary in his budget statement recently.
Hon. Abdou Kolley added that people and other economic actors should ordinarily have confident in the ability of the justice system to enhance legal protection and redress whenever needed.
He noted that the Laws of The Gambia, which were last revised in 1990, have now been entirely revised and due for publication soon. “This revision which cost Government over US$1 million, will for the first time make the laws available in both hard and soft copies and accessible through the internet,” he said. 
According to him, the law library has also been refurbished and stocked with new legal reference materials to facilities the functioning of the justice system, while citing that Government has also provided significant resource for training of staff of the Attorney General's Chambers to reinforce the much need capacity.
He charged that the judiciary will ensure that cases progress in a timely manner and to ensure access to justice for all within a transparent judicial system. It is well recognised that any weakness in these areas will impede economic growth, citizen security and civil peace thereby affecting the poor disproportionally.
He also challenge the judiciary to work towards increasing the number of judges and other judicial staff which will go along way in addressing the current backlog of cases, while capacity building including the Cadi (Sharia Court) training continues to gain the required attention.
According to him, an alternative dispute resolution secretariat (ADRS) has been established to help resolve disputes between and among people and institutions, thereby reducing the need for going through the courts. “This institution has been helpful in settling cases amicably and there are plans to decentralize its activities by setting up ADRS branches in all administrative regions in the country.
“The legal reform for establishing a National Agency for Legal Aid and national Agency against Trafficking in Persons are already in place and government has provided funds for their implementation in 2010,” he noted.
On environment and climate change, he said Government's commitment in maintaining a clean and healthy environment has been manifested in the construction of The Gambia Environment House- the headquarters of the National Environmental Agency, which was inaugurated in July 2009.
Furthermore, he pointed out that several Multilateral Environmental Agreements have been signed by The Gambia Government, strengthening of the institutional, legal and regulatory framework, the most recent being the anti-littering regulation and the establishment of a special environment Court for the speedy prosecution of offenders on environment-related matters.
As he puts it, The Gambia continues to play a pivotal role in the climate change debate at regional and international levels. The Gambia was indeed one of the lead coordinators of the African Group and Least Developed Countries Negotiators in the recently concluded Climate Change negotiations in December 2009 in Copenhagen.
“Our main focus is on four main challenges, namely Mitigation (promotion of low-carbon development); Adaptation (management of climate change risks); Technology (researching climate-friendly technologies) and Financing (mobilisation of funds to spur economic growth, adaptation and low-carbon development),” he said.
He lamented that the heavy downpour of rain in August and September 2009 has brought with it heavy loss of properties and affected the livelihood of many inhabitants, the majority of whom were women and children. However, he noted that the National Disaster Management Agency with support from the United National has now finalised a Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Programme for the period 2010-2013.
“It is hoped that this comprehensive programme, when implemented, will help combat the scourge of disaster and climate change risks,” he said with optimism.
On population and development, he said The Gambia Government continues to recognize the inextricable link between population dynamics and poverty alleviation. Unfavourable demographic factors such as high fertility have tended to exacerbate the poverty situation in the country.
However, Government's investment over the years in addressing population and development issues is yielding results. The 2003 Population and Housing Census have shown a decline in population growth rate from 4.2 percent to 2.8 percent from1993 to 2003. Annually, it is estimated that the population of The Gambia increases by 40,000 persons, most of whom would be young people.
In complementing government's efforts in addressing population and development challenges, he admitted that the United Nations Family Planning Association (UNFPA) has been assisting the Government in the area of reproductive health, population and development and gender. He also revealed that UNFPA has recently increased its country allocation from regular resources from US$2.75 million to US$4 million in order to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life and standard of living in The Gambia.

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