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Regional Seminar for Opinion Exchange: Mediation and the Rule of Law
 

(Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania)

The Center for the Study of Democracy hosted a regional seminar titled "Mediation and the Rule of Law" (September 29th, 1998 -- October 2nd, 1998) which was jointly held with the cooperation of the General Directorate for Legal Cooperation of the Agency for Francophony, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Justice and Law Euro-integration.

A number of mediators and ombudsmen took part in the seminar: Mr. Yves Monet of Belgium; Mr. Bernard Stasie of France; Mr. Daniel Jacquobie of Quebec, Canada; and Gen. Tiemoko Mark Garango of Burkina Faso. They presented explanations of their functions and the circumstances under which their offices were established. Reports were made on the status of events in Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania in which problems were outlined and possible solutions offered. The seminar was attended by representatives of major Bulgarian institutions - the Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Law Euro-integration, the Constitutional Court - who will be directly involved in the establishment of the Bulgarian national mediator/ombudsman. The views of the working group of experts for CSD's Law Program were presented, too, on the researched possibilities for instituting a mediator/ombudsman in Bulgaria.

This meeting was relevant and beneficial, fitting well in the framework of Bulgarian efforts to draft a law on the instituting of an ombudsman. As intended by its theme, the forum provided an opportunity to assess the variety of constantly developing experience and forms of mediation and the various aspects of 'the rule of law.' The professionalism of the expert participants allowed for very productive discussions and the pooling of information both on the role of the mediator/ombudsman and on the specifics of founding such an institution. Extensive foreign participation enriched the international cooperation of many European mediation institutions.

The seminar is an element of the Hanoi action plan and the effectuating of the mobilization program "Horizons of Freedom, Democracy and Development," and more specifically the training program launched by the General Directorate for Legal Cooperation with the Agency for Francophony in accord with the Action Plan of the Third Conference of the Ministers of Justice of the Countries of the Francophony (Cairo, October 29th, 1995 -- November 1st, 1995) which is concerned with activities to promote judicial and non-judicial institutionalization in defense of rule-of-law and human rights.

Recognizing the necessity of "independent, accessible and efficient justice," the Action Plan emphasizes non-judicial mechanisms: "Legal mechanisms can lead, in their strictness, to decisions which are too harsh or incongruous because they do not sufficiently take into account important features of reality. This is why it is desirable for there to be other more informal and flexible procedures apart from judicial ones."

The Second Congress of Ombudsmen and Mediators from Francophone Countries (Quebec, June 1997), attended by representatives of 15 Francophone countries, resulted in the decision to establish a sustainable association of the intermediary institutions. In October of the same year was founded the Association of Ombudsmen and Mediators of the Francophony (AOMF). The Association is aimed at enhancing supportive cooperation among existing mediators/ombudsmen as well as promoting new active ombudsmen.

In practice there are no universally true solutions. To be awarded membership in AOMF an institution must exercise "the function of intermediary/mediator, ombudsman, human rights commissioner or the equivalent of that; whose purpose is to correct and prevent injustice done to citizens by public administrative authorities." Necessary criteria for that are "the institution must have an act of constitution or other legal approval; mediator's status must be independent of executive power and administration; the ombudsman shall act authorized under a mandate limited in time in the course of which it is irreplaceable." Specific developments and differences are acceptable. In each country the mediator institution should fit into the environment of the other national institutions.

 
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