As promised during the Legal Empowerment Leadership Course [@leadership_course_2017_participants] I would like to share with this community the first advances on the implementation of the Free Legal Representation Network that the Office of the National Director for the Promotion and Strengthening of Access to Justice is currently implementing in Argentina.
Currently, Centers for Access to Justice –90 field offices ran by the Office of the National Director for the Promotion and Strengthening of Access to Justice that provide free legal assistance- are working in cooperation with Law Schools, Bar Associations and NGOs to up the game by providing free legal representation to vulnerable communities across the country and empowering them to better understand their legal problems and act accordingly, following the two-pronged national public policy on access to justice developed by the Office
After two open and transparent invitations, 26 Law Schools, NGOs and Bar Associations were selected to provide free legal representation throughout the country in cases were the Centers for Access to Justice have identified such need and develop different empowering activities for communities.
Under this UNDP financed initiative, these institutions leverage and strengthen the work carried out by the Centers for Access to Justice, by organizing lawyers and law students to provide free legal representation to vulnerable individuals and communities. The centers give initial counseling to the party and refer their case to participating law schools, NGOs and bar associations to provide legal representation when needed. Added to this, participating institutions are implementing a set of strategies to foster legal empowerment for communities and relevant community leaders. The Centers for Access to Justice, in cooperation with these institutions, have designed activities aimed at boosting the confidence of members of vulnerable communities and have begun to put them in place. These activities include: designing a disabled-friendly online legal aid platform addressing recurrent legal problems; developing online legal literacy courses for community leaders in remote areas; large communication campaigns to advertise the services provided and; drafting access to justice manuals for community leaders.
Just to evince the goals set by these institutions and the Office during 2018:
- 2477 judicial cases represented by lawyers and law students for free;
- 7 online platforms to assist communities with recurrent legal problems
- 160 workshops for vulnerable communities, law students, lawyers and public officials and government workers
- 680 mediations
Since late March this year, the 26 institutions have been working collaboratively with 45 Centers for Access to Justice in 18 provinces. So far, this partnership has resulted in free legal representation in 200 judicial cases, 5 online platforms in place, 50 workshops organized in order to empower vulnerable communities and community leaders and to provide interviewing tools and further knowledge on users and consumers law, family law, persons with disabilities recurrent issues, domestic and institutional violence to law students, lawyers, public officials and government workers and 75 mediations on various issues.
During the first trimester, the Office has witnessed the developing of the first steps of this ambitious pilot program while assisting in the designing of the activities and setting up the required protocols to make this national access to justice public policy work in a homogeneous manner. In the upcoming months we expect to see an increase in the number of judicial cases referred from the Centers for Access to Justice to our partner institutions. Additionally, we look forward to witness a more visible and expansive presence on the ground of these institutions and of the Centers for Access to Justice while empowering communities with the required legal tools to solve their legal problems.
We’ll keep you posted on further developments and any comment and guidance we’ll be very much appreciated.