In early 2019, the Legal Development Network - an umbrella association of non-government legal aid providers, with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation, the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, and the Pravokator Legal Clubs Network, launched the program supporting community-led legal needs surveys. By the end of January 2020, the Program Expert Group met to summarize last year and plan for the current one.
The Legal Development Network’s program supporting community-led legal needs surveys creates a unique opportunity for Ukrainian territorial communities to plan, prepare and carry out research into the legal needs of their residents. The knowledge and results of the first program participants already help in developing local justice access programs, attracting local and external resources to implement them.
In 2019, 5 initiative groups from the following communities were selected to participate in the Program:
- Kreminna (Luhansk region)
- Oleshyn (Khmelnytsky region)
- Shyroke (Zaporizhzhia region)
- Khmilnyk (Vinnytsia region)
- Kherson (Kherson region)
We can now get acquainted with some of the results of the surveys. For example, in Kherson, the legal needs of the city residents were researched, and it was found that every other socially vulnerable population needed legal assistance. But many people can’t take the first step to solve their problems and take action.
“The initiative group came to the main conclusion - Kherson needs a systematic approach to the organization of legal aid. This applies not only to the organization of advisory assistance. This also applies to raise the sound level and self-organization of representatives of socially vulnerable population groups,” said Natalia Bimbiraite, research coordinator in Kherson. Read more about the results of this study here.
“During the systematic analysis, it was found out that in the city of Khmilnyk created appropriated conditions for receiving free legal aid by members of the community: the Khmelnytsky Legal Aid Office, the Khmelnytsky Office of the Legal Development Network etc. But, during the amalgamation of municipalities, a large number of the rural residents will find themselves in certain legal isolation. Because, due to the amalgamation, some administrative procedures will change, the subordination of the authorities will change,”- emphasizes Vitalii Dorokh, coordinator of the Khmilnyk group (Vinnytsia region).
The workgroup, created on the initiative of program participants, identified, through the results of the survey, which local regulations create barriers to access to justice for residents and need improvement. These include acts governing the submission of e-petitions, public hearings, meetings at the place of residence, local initiatives, obtaining of certificates of family composition and trade permits, rules for outdoor advertising. And also, services provided by utility companies, passenger transportation, determining the priority of road repairs. The group will continue working on how to address these issues in 2020.
Presentation for community of a new project of the NGO “Law” titled “Creation of a free legal aid system in the Khmilnyk municipality”. Photo credit: NGO “Law”
The survey conducted by the Program’s participants from Oleshyn municipality, Khmelnytskyi region, is already working for the benefit of the community, helping to solve the legal problems of its residents.
According to Anastasia Ploshchynska, the research coordinator in Oleshyn, the results of the survey found that 30% of the surveyed residents seek legal aid and legal advice from their acquaintances and friends. Only 20% turn to lawyers and attorneys. The reason for this is the problem of access to qualified legal aid for residents of territorial communities in rural areas.
To support communities in exercising the right of residents to legal aid, based on the results of the survey, the initiative group launched several projects. These projects are implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, UNDP in Ukraine and the International Renaissance Foundation.
From the analysis of the information obtained from the survey in Kreminna in Luhansk region, among the most productive formats of providing legal assistance to the residents of the community are telephone and field consultations on legal issues, the arrangement of legal advisory points, consulting through the Internet, publications in the media.
“Legal needs surveys are invaluable material for shaping effective legal policies for local communities. It is impossible to guarantee the rights of citizens blindly. Such studies inform us about the real needs of the public in the field of legal capacity. They allow you to keep your hand on the pulse of the legal needs of the people when shaping and implementing local policy to enhance access to justice for all. Only based on such data will we be able to implement those steps in the field of legal protection that are most relevant to the needs and interests of the Ukrainians,” said Oleksii Kormiletsky, research coordinator at Kreminna.
During the press conference and discussion of the community survey data, particular attention was paid to the further action plan. After all, the information obtained during the survey will form the basis for the development of a local legal aid program in Kreminna, Luhansk region.
Presentation of the results of the survey in Kreminna (Lugansk region) Photo credit: City HUB site
Housing and communal services, social benefits and benefits, land relations, health care and consumer protection, are the most common legal problems faced by citizens living in the Shyroke municipality, Zaporizhzhia region.
The demand for primary legal aid in rural areas is traditionally high, since not all residents have the opportunity to go to the city for consultation. Today, Shyroke municipality operates a hotline allowing the locals contact with their questions and problems, including legal issues, but this is not enough to fully meet their needs for primary legal aid. The information obtained during the survey will shape the basis for developing a local legal aid program and determining the most appropriate tools for its implementation.
“The role of the community’s residents in solving legal problems is important because, without their determination and real, timely, active action, no lawyer can address their problems.” - emphasizes Zhanna Lytvynenko, the research coordinator at Shyroke.
Soon, the Call for Proposals will kick off the Program for 2020. The Program becomes an integral part of the Ukrainian Access to Justice School of Practice, with some innovations expected this year.
Last year the individual members of initiative groups participated in the competitive selection. However, this year the initial (formal) application for participation in the competitive selection of initiative groups will be submitted by the institutions (local government, civil society organization, free legal aid system centre, etc.). This institution will commit itself to form a task force to participate in the Program and to support its further activities. The final selection of initiative groups will be carried out as a result of interviews with all their participants.
The program of workshops for the participants of the program will substantially complement the national and global experience in evaluating the effectiveness of access to justice programs, approaches to the costs and benefits analysis, participatory design (co-creation). During the joint events, participants of 2019 Program will share their practical experience of implementing their current year’s plans with the participants of the 2020 Program.