Rule of Law

LexisNexis New Zealand Funds Rule of Law Initiatives in the Pacific by James Dalley

 

In late June LexisNexis New Zealand sponsored a three-day workshop for lawyers and magistrates, which was organised by NZLS CLE Ltd & Massey University, in association with The Cook Islands Law Society - a partnership that has seen the delivery of more than 20 mediation workshops since 2010.

The Skills and Strategies for Managing Your Cases: expanding your toolbox – negotiation, settlement conferences and mediation workshop, held in Rarotonga between 18-20 June, focused on expanding the tools lawyers use to achieve better outcomes for their clients, including better negotiation skills, and bigger understanding, and use of Judicial Settlement Conferences and mediation.

Run on a pro-bono basis, the workshop had a number of high calibre presenters lined up, including former Director of Massey University’s Dispute Resolution Centre, Virginia Goldblatt, and Director of Massey University’s mediations service, well known commercial mediator, Geoff Sharp. The Cook Islands Law Society’s Executive Director Christine Grice, and experienced mediator who sits on the bench of the Cook Islands High Court, was also present for part of the workshop.

The donations were made possible with the assistance of Christine Grice from the New Zealand Law Society, David Naylor of the South Pacific Lawyers Association, and funding from LexisNexis as part of the Pacific Rule of Law Initiative.

“Thank you so much for the kind donation, and please convey our sincerest appreciation to the management of LexisNexis,” Mareva Betham-Annandale of the Samoan Law Society said at the time of the donation.

Facilitating access to the law through the delivery of legal materials is another way through which LexisNexis can uphold its commitment to advancing the rule of law in the region, and worldwide. The importance of corporate entities such as LexisNexis, side by side with regional state powers, including Australia and New Zealand, to be seen and accepted as staunch supporters of the rule of law in the region has never been more pertinent.

A report, recently published by the World Bank,[1] and presented at the Crawford School of Economics at the Australian National University in Australian Capital Territory,[2] identified the Pacific Islands as one of the most difficult places to do business in the world. The report cited evidence of high levels of corruption, gender violence, and an increase in crime rates as some of the challenges that continue to thwart progress of the rule of law in the Pacific region.

This year, the region has also witnessed first-hand the challenges the Pacific faces in advancing the rule of law, when in March, Australian-born Nauru Supreme Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames resigned from his role after Nauru’s Chief Magistrate was sacked by the Nauru Government in a move condemned as violation of the rule of law, both in Nauru and by external commentators.

In the meantime, the region has seen Fiji stage four coups since 1987, with the latest resulting in Commodore Frank Bainimarama hold onto power from 2006 until his resignation in February this year as Fiji Military Chief.  Each coup saw the Constitution suspended, rendering fundamental rights and freedoms of Fijians, previously guaranteed, as non-existent. Since the most recent coup in 2006, the Fijian Judiciary has been criticised of being overly-politicised - a number of judges trying to uphold the rule of law, have been forcefully retired or silenced. Implications of Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s resignation are still unclear yet, the need to uphold the rule of law remains as apt as ever.

James Dalley is LexisNexis Capital Monitor News & Information manager, ANU B Laws (HONS) & Asian Studies


[1] World Development Report 2014, Risk and Opportunity: Managing Risk for Development.

[2] Public lecture by Kyla Wethli, Truman Packard, and Michael Carnahan, ‘Risk and hardship in the Pacific and worldwide’ 6 March 2014.

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