The National Judicial Academy, Nepal with support of the Supreme Court of Nepal and the International Commission of Jurists, Nepal organized the first "Regional Conference of Judges and Judicial Educators on Judicial Education and Enhancing Access to Justice" on September 22 to 24, 2013 in Kathmandu. The Conference was inaugurated by Rt. Hon. Damodar Prasad Sharma, Acting Chief Justice of Nepal and attended by Justices, Judges and legal and judicial educators of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The participating Justices, Judges, legal and judicial educators deliberated and shared experience in areas of common concern regarding judicial education and judicial reform initiatives in respective jurisdictions. Problems, challenges and opportunities relating to access to justice generally and barriers and obstacles faced by specific groups who are disadvantaged, excluded or restricted from exercising their fundamental rights of access to justice and to equality, more particularly women and children were discussed. We also noted with interest the initiatives taken to introduce fast-track courts and alternative dispute resolution including mediation as a mechanism to promote access to justice and amicable settlement of disputes and were in agreement that networking of justices, judges and legal and judicial educators in the region would optimize the resources and facilitate the sharing of judicial knowledge, skills and experiences as well as best practices.
While taking note of and in full appreciation of the initiatives undertaken to introduce and pursue judicial education programs, linking judicial education to the promotion of access to justice, rule of law, human rights, the independence of the judiciary and judicial reform, the Conference adopted the following Declaration:
- Being cognizant of the importance of judicial education to capacity building of judges and other human resources associated with the administration of justice, in achieving independent, impartial, efficient and effective justice, and in ensuring judicial good governance, and thereby contributing to the entrenchment of the rule of law, we judges, and legal and judicial educators note with satisfaction the initiatives taken by our respective judiciaries in establishing judicial education institutions in our jurisdictions, and express our commitment to channel our individual and collective experiences and expertise to assist, if asked for, in the establishment of such institutions of education of judges where they are yet to be established.
- Taking note that judicial education should not suffer due to lack of resources, we emphasize that respective judiciaries, in liaison with the judicial academies and institutions, desirably workout per- judge-cost that may be incurred on judicial education and ensure availability of financial, human and knowledge resources to judicial education institutions.
- Being aware of the need to tailor judicial education programs according to legal, judicial and reform needs of specific countries, we are convinced that the existence of common legal tradition among many countries in South Asia and in the Asia Pacific region, and also the increasing influence of international law in areas of trade and commerce, information and technology, environment and conservation of biodiversity, natural resources etc., has impelled our countries and our institutions to forge closer cooperation in harmonizing our laws, improving the quality of justice to promote and protect human rights and where necessary, develop special defensive mechanism in ensuring equality, dignity and respect of individual and communities especially the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged section through accessible and effective justice, and thereby, safeguard our national and regional interests.
- Convinced of the advantages of increased cooperation for quality judicial education, cross-fertilization of jurisprudence and judicial practices, and emergence of regional standard, and pooling in financial and human resources, we express our commitment for more intensive collaboration and cooperation in the design and implementation of judicial education programs through exchange of faculties, creation of possibilities for participation in education and training programs on issues of common concern for judges and law officers, and explore the possibility of establishing a regional judicial education institution in South Asia that caters for the educational and research needs of the people of Asia and Pacific region.
- As an immediate practical step in promoting regional collaboration, we are committed to exploring the possibility of conducting research in areas of common concern such as independence of the judiciary, access to justice, human rights and other cutting edge areas of law and justice. We also commit to exploring the possibility of linking the library systems of judicial academies and training institutions, so that the possibility of easy access to online resources is availed to the users.
- Convinced of the needs to establish a network of the judicial education institutions within the region for the common benefit of the judiciaries, we propose to establish a network entitled "Asia Pacific Judicial Education Institutions Network (APJEIN)". We also propose that a team of experts under the leadership of the Executive Director of the National Judicial Academy, Nepal shall be formed to carry out the necessary preparatory work for the establishment of APJEIN. The NJA, Nepal will also work as its secretariat.
We place on record our sincere appreciation to the Chief Justice of Nepal, the Supreme Court of Nepal, Executive Director of the National Judicial Academy and the NJA family, and the International Commission of Jurists, Nepal for successfully hosting the Conference and, with a view to promote more intensive dialogue among justices and legal and judicial educators, work further to organize similar Conferences in other countries of the Asia Pacific region in the future.
Adopted in Kathmandu on 24th day of September of the Year 2013.