Officials are reporting some success in the programme aimed at improving access to justice in the Caribbean – IMPACT Justice.
The eight-year project which is funded by the Canadian government to the tune of $19.2 million is in its sixth year and is benefitting 13 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries – Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
IMPACT Justice was designed primarily to improve the access of justice to women, men, boys, girls and businesses in the region which officials aim to meet under three main components – drafting of legislation and training, legal education workshops and education programmes, and through dispute resolution and the establishment of mediation centres.
Officials have gathered in Barbados for a two-day seminar to discuss bankruptcy and insolvency legislation.
During the opening ceremony at the Accra Beach hotel on Monday, Regional Director of the IMPACT Justice programme Professor Velma Newton said under the project’s first component a number of individuals have been trained and several countries, including Barbados, have implemented legislation.
“So far, we have completed nine model bills of which four have been enacted in various countries and others are being considered. We have also been training persons in legislative drafting at the Cave Hill Campus and at the Athabasca University in Western Canada. Between 2014 and September this year, we have trained 43 persons under this programme,” reported Newton.
“We train legislative drafters in the consolidation of laws so that they know how to keep their statute books up to date,” she added.
She also reported that under component two of the project, continuing legal education programmes were developed and public legal education workshops held. She said over the past five years IMPACT Justice had trained over 1,800 individuals in the region in mediation and restorative practices and drafted a model mediation bill.
“We are currently assisting those whom we trained as trainers in restorative practices to themselves conduct training and this is going well in some countries, especially in the school system of Barbados,” said Newton.
“With regard to mediation, our emphasis is on community mediation and we are currently working towards establishing centres for delivering services,” she added.
She also pointed out that for arbitration “a small number” of attorneys-at-law from government departments in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago held positions in which they were likely to act on behalf of their governments in arbitration.
IMPACT Justice has also drafted a Model Arbitration Bill which it said was approved by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.
Madam Justice Jacqueline Cornelius said the two-day seminar in Barbados would allow country representatives to devise a framework for the governing of insolvency matters.
She said the hope was to develop a framework that “commands respect and observance yet is sufficiently flexible to adapt and deal with the rapidly changing conditions of our modern world and in particular, to achieve a system that is seen to produce practical solutions to financial and commercial problems, simple and easily understood, free from anomalies and inconsistencies, capable of being administered efficiently and with economy”.
Minister of Commerce, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland said as part of Government’s commitment to reform, it had asked the World Bank Group to conduct an assessment of the country’s current situation as it relates to the ease of doing business indicator. A number of short, medium and long-term measures were recommended and consequently a technical working group, chaired by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, was established to review the recommendations and develop a comprehensive reform strategy.
“In relation to the area of resolving insolvency, the recommendations made by the World Bank Group focused on legislative reforms, and in July this year, the Cabinet of Barbados approved the recommendation for the amendment of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act so that it fully aligns with international standards,” said Sutherland.
He also pointed to the amendments made to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act this year to allow for the establishment of a commercial court division.
“This initiative to strengthen our insolvency regime through legislative reform becomes even more important at this juncture, given the Government’s agenda to build out our micro, small and medium-sized enterprises sector and promote entrepreneurship and small business development as a means of driving growth within the economy,” said Sutherland.
He added that as Barbados seeks to attract foreign investment and promote trade across borders, one of the consequences was the increased incidence of corporate entities having businesses, assets, debtors and creditors in more than one country.
“A strong legislative and regulatory framework is therefore necessary in order to ensure the effective implementation of sound administrative practices which will promote stakeholder and investor confidence in the jurisdiction and provide a clear and consistent operational framework to give full effect to the true intent and purpose of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act,” said Sutherland.