Making the case for access to justice at a national scale: Argentina´s example

argentina
justiceforall

(Maria Victoria Gama) #1

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.


(Ashley van Waes) #2

Hi @Mvictoriagama, wow thank you for sharing! It seems you have made considerable progress since last year’s leadership course. Could you share the links to further resources, online platforms, etc so that members will be able to learn how to get involved?


(Maria Victoria Gama) #3

Hi @ashleyvanwaes! Thanks for the encouragement! We are working on developing some infographics to share but it might a couple of weeks still. I will for sure share them here.


(Michael Otto) #4

Thanks for sharing, @Mvictoriagama- very inspiring work to hear about at the national level! I really appreciate the joining of traditional legal aid representation by law schools, Bar Associations, and civil society with legal empowerment approaches within communities. I know many members deploy legal empowerment methods through clinical law programs too, like helping communities to know the law and access ways to use it, which is an underrepresented topic in our forum. @marlonmanuel has supported many similar programs, in the Philippines and in the broader Asia-Pacific region, and I used to work on similar clinical models in Southeast Asia.

I would be curious to hear from others working directly with government about how they have institutionalized legal empowerment approaches within traditional legal aid frameworks. I know that @ncamburian in Moldova has worked with the government’s National Legal Aid Commission in similar ways, although paralegals have more formalized recognition there (you can read more about recent developments here). They are piloting a system of specialized paralegals to work with specific marginalized communities to better understand and address their issues currently. Or you may remember @hayazahid from last year’s leadership course who works within public institutions in Pakistan at the Legal Aid Society to provide targeted legal aid that is combined with legal empowerment techniques in prisons and elsewhere in Sindh Province.


(Marlon Manuel) #5

Hi @Mvictoriagama

These are wonderful news! And it is heart warming to hear these stories from the participants of the past leadership course. I was telling @hayazahid in a post that we will explore how we can involve you (2017 course participants) in this year’s leadership course, even virtually. We will plan for that and will contact you for details. Your stories are worth sharing to the participants of this year’s course.

You may want to read Haya’s post on their prison paralegal program.

I hope the other @leadership_course_2017_participants can also share updates on their work.


(Natalia Camburian) #7

HI Michael, it is very exiting to learn about our colleagues successes. I would be happy to share our experience. The short version of our success story is the following: Soros Foundation-Moldova (SFM) has been working on legal empowerment issues since 2003 and was one of the main civil society actors that partnered with the Government to carry out the legal aid reform in Moldova. It supported the first research on quality and accessibility of legal aid in 2003 and 2004; established the first pilot Public Defender Office in 2006; lobbied for a new law on legal aid, engaging in advocacy and technical assistance to the Government in drafting and implementing the legal aid law, providing significant support to the National Legal Aid Council (NLAC). Thus in 2007 the Parliament adopted a new Law on State Guaranteed Legal Aid (Legal Aid Law) on the legal aid system and in general on access to justice in Moldova which became effective from July 2008. Starting from 1st January 2012 legal aid system was extended to non-criminal cases. The adoption of the Legal Aid Law has redesigned the entire legal aid system, focusing on ensuring equal access to justice for citizens of Moldova, as well for foreigners and stateless persons who need legal assistance in relation to the Moldovan authorities. You can read more information about the impact assessment of Moldovan Law on State Guaranteed Legal Aid which was published in 2012 at the following link https://bit.ly/2NmyJG7

In 2009 SFM piloted a new project “Legal empowerment of rural communities”, focused on setting up and testing a network of community based paralegals as a means to empower poor rural residents to participate in the public life of their communities, claim their rights and determine local decision makers to adopt decisions improving the quality of their lives. From the perspective of the paralegal’s role in providing education about rights (raising legal awareness) and basic legal advice to solve problems that do not need professional involvement (by lawyers, judges of other institutions), the main affiliation of paralegals was identified with NLAC, consistent with the Law on state guaranteed legal aid. In 2013, the NLAC took over the paralegal network and since then it is responsible for its extension and development. You can find out more about the main conclusions and recommendations after piloting the community-based paralegals in Moldova services at the following link https://bit.ly/2tX5TmE


(Bonani Madina) #8

Awesome! All this is very awesome news! As a new member here, I am very encouraged by the concrete ways in which members are doing their work, with such good results. I look forward to hearing and learning more of the successes, and challenges from members in the network.



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