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National Consultation Workshop on Alternative Dispute resolution Practice in Cambodia 

2012-09-21 - CLEC

Traditionally in Cambodia disputes are resolved through methods of mediation and negotiation between parties, with or without a neutral third party. This type of dispute resolution is more accessible, less costly and perceived as more just than the formal court system. In communities where disagreements arise between neighbours or within families regarding non-criminal matters, non-formal means of solving these minor conflicts are more practical and often more effective in keeping the peace and in maintaining good community relations. Civil society in Cambodia and international partners have recognised the value of such dispute resolution, where there are no 'winners' or 'losers' but where compromise is reached. Because this method is separate from conventional systems of justice it is referred to as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).  

Judicial reform is underway in Cambodia but change will not happen overnight. Currently the formal justice system is virtually inaccessible to ordinary Cambodians and public faith in the institution is extremely low. In 2007 the Cambodian public ranked the judiciary as the most corrupt sector . Judges are not independent and judgements will often be swayed on the basis of the relative wealth and power of the parties involved. Officials or those linked to officials are not held accountable for crimes or acts of corruption. For ordinary Cambodian citizens the courts are often far removed (both physically and culturally), impossibly costly and chances of having justice delivered by the courts are slim. Therefore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms can help to bolster the justice system by providing independent, transparent means of solving minor disputes and also by alleviating some of the courts' heavy caseload. 

As part of their Access to Justice Project, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), through the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior and with the support of the UNDP and AECID, set up the Commune Dispute Resolution Committee (CDRC) aimed at enhancing alternative dispute resolution in Cambodia. The RGC recognise that, compared to court proceedings, the chief advantages of ADR are that it is more flexible, simpler, cheaper and faster than conventional court proceedings. In 2003, the first ADR law created the Arbitration council, which deals with collective labour disputes in the country. The Commercial arbitration law of 2006 allows ADR mechanisms to solve commercial conflicts . Additionally, the new Code of Civil Procedure permits individuals to solve their conflicts through ADR mechanisms, even if a court complaint has been filed. Negotiations are encouraged in articles 97 and 104 and the law states that the court can even take an active role in being the mediator .

In Cambodia, ADR mechanisms are already frequently used in resolving civil matters. For poor villagers living in rural areas, taking a lawsuit in an urban court is not practical due to distance, financial burden and time constraints.  In commercial, labour and many civil conflicts, the usefulness of ADR has been strongly recognized. According to the United Nations in Cambodia, civil conflict mediation, one of the main ADR mechanisms, helps bring justice closer to Cambodia's poor . In cases of basic civil conflicts, the villagers almost always search for a local solution first . The villagers naturally have more confidence in local authorities (village chiefs and commune leaders) than they have in the police or in the provincial courts, which are considered costly and more difficult to access . 

Please find tentative agendas KH and Eng below. 

Video of Alternative Depute Resolution - Peace Table in Cambodia:  http://youtu.be/9ivihpMQ2eQ

Speech of H.E Phum Sadra, Secretary of  State, Minister of Justice  Ministry: 

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