For the past 15 years, Paolo Galizzi, a clinical professor at Fordham Law, has worked to help strengthen the Ghanaian legal framework. To shore up his efforts he is now working with his Ghanaian colleagues to set up the first doctoral program in law as part of his many efforts to help grow the legal profession in that country.
He is serving as a pro bono consultant for the joint program developed by the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and Ghana’s Mountcrest University College. The program is under review by Ghana’s National Accreditation Board.
With Fordham, Galizzi also runs several programs in Ghana, including a soon-to-be-launched clerkship for the judicial system that will be open to Fordham graduates. Through the Leitner Center he directs two clinics: Sustainable Development Legal Initiative (SDLI) and the International Law and Development in Africa (ILDA). He also directs the Law School’s Ghana summer program.
“I believe there is a significant market for Fordham and its graduates in Africa,” Galizzi said. “It is an often overlooked continent, too often known only for negative reasons. There is a lot that is positive happening in Ghana and I believe Fordham should be at the forefront of it.”
While there are good law doctoral programs elsewhere in Africa, there are none in Ghana, he said—even though most Ghanaian law schools require a PhD to teach, forcing candidates to emigrate. Besides the personal burden of requiring law students to leave their professional and personal relationships behind, their research also gets exported.
“The idea of having a local PhD insures that there is local research and local supervision to develop the expertise,” he said. “For example there is no way to study environmental law in Ghana right now. You can do it here in the United States, but that’s not going to help them.”
The country’s stability and technological innovations make Ghana a place to take advantage of now, he said. And the legal system in Ghana is as good on paper as in the United States, with a very strong constitution that provides for the separation of powers and guarantees human rights.
“The problem is the implementation of the laws, but that’s a challenge we face here as well,” he said.
He compared the overcrowding at Rikers Island caused by a backlog of unheard cases to problems in Ghanaian prisons.
“The backlog problem in the U.S. is clearly resource-constrained, but they’re nothing compared to the challenges in Ghana,” said Galizzi, where there are 3,000 to 5,000 cases awaiting trial, sometimes for up to 10 to 15 years.
Through ILDA, Galizzi and Fordham law students have intervened on behalf of prisoners in through the Access to Justice Project. Fordham students work with Ghanaian lawyers to help to reconstruct prisoners’ case files and work with the judicial system to get the cased heard and those with expired warrants released.
Galizzi acknowledged an increased interest in Africa’s development by several nations. However, efforts by schools like Fordham to get involved still have an edge.
“In the educational sphere, American universities have a terrific reputation,” he said. “That bears heavily on the types of relationships that African universities want to establish.”
He said that Americans should remember the scars of Africa’s colonial past.
“If you go in and say what is good and what is bad, you usually get rejection because they know the problems they have,” he said. “It’s more of an exchange to see how we can assist.”
“Rather than the idea of exporting values, I prefer to say we share common ideals that can enrich both of us.”