When Kosovo’s courts closed in mid-March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of citizens with civil disputes were left with no way forward on their cases.
The USAID-funded Commercial Justice Activity, implemented by Checchi and Company Consulting, rapidly switched to virtual methods such as videoconferencing that addressed Activity priorities. Checchi quickly realized that one of its support areas—mediation case referral—could take place online. After finding a simple, reliable, and secure online platform, the Activity raised the idea with the Kosovo Judicial Council in April, which promptly issued a decision directing courts to start referring cases to online mediation. Working with court presidents, clerks, and mediators, the Activity facilitated referral of the first three cases to online mediation in May, each resulting in a settlement.
Even though courts are now reopening, online mediation presents a significant ongoing opportunity, as there are thousands of cases in Kosovo’s courts that are appropriate for mediation. The availability of online mediation strengthens access to justice by allowing many cases to be resolved at a distance, avoiding face-to-face meetings and burdensome travel. It also helps streamline the judicial process, speeding case processing times while reducing costs to the government institutions. The Commercial Justice Activity continues to work with courts and mediators to facilitate and streamline the mediation referral process, including online mediation.