The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called on government to support village mediation programmes in communities which cater for people who cannot access the formal justice system.
UNDP deputy resident representative Clare Medina said this in Lilongwe on Friday when the organisation handed over 782 bicycles valued at $76 477 (about K56 million) to benefit village mediators from 11 programme districts, including Mchinji, Karonga, Mzimba, Ntcheu, Zomba, Mulanje and Blantyre.
She said in an interview that without mediation, Malawi would not be as advanced in meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.3 which promotes the rule of law and calls for equal justice for all.
Said Medina: “The justice sector should consider adopting the village mediation model of managing cases at community level to ensure that no-one is left behind in access to justice.
“Access to justice, especially for women, girls and other vulnerable groups like the extreme poor, remains one of the social development challenges in Malawi and is at the heart of our work as UNDP.”
UNDP has been working with the European Union to support Paralegal Advisory Services Institute (Pasi) in access to justice through Village Mediation and Paralegal Services Project since 2018 under the Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) Programme.
During the handover, EU Delegation deputy representative Aurelie Valtat said 35 707 cases have so far been resolved through mediation in the past two years out of which 55 percent were reported by women.
“At the heart of the Chilungamo Programme is access to justice for women, girls, and other vulnerable groups such as persons with albinism. Village mediation ensures that disputes are solved at local and informal settings to allow the participants to be more comfortable and freer to express their issues,” she said.
Valtat further noted that village mediation not only provides access justice, but it also restores relationships which strengthens community resilience.
On his part, Pasi national director Clifford Msiska said village mediators are providing a service at the doorstep of the people seeking justice.
He said the bicycles will help alleviate the mediators’ mobility problems as 50 percent of them had no means of transportation.
The Access to Justice Project is a partnership between Pasi, UNDP and EU with village mediators as one part of the programme, and the other part being providing support to paralegals who provide legal advice.