A cornerstone of IDLO’s work, SDG 16 stipulates access to justice for all as one of the crucial elements to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Across the world, we work with vulnerable groups who face insurmountable barriers in accessing justice and exercising their rights. Often, state institutions, including those dispensing justice are – or are perceived to be – distant, inaccessible, unresponsive and corrupt. This undermines citizens’ trust in their ability to provide solutions, and leaves communities feeling alienated and unprotected. In many countries, we work with civil society organizations and communities, empowering them to recognize and demand their rights and hold institutions accountable. As part of our work promoting access to justice, in a number of countries IDLO is focusing on specific populations such as women, people living with HIV, children and youths, indigenous people and marginalized communities. Our work with these groups contributes towards achieving several SDGs, including SDG 3 on health, SDG 5 on gender equality, and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities.
Legal and institutional reforms promoted by us in 2015 have sought to advance gender equality and women’s rights, combat gender-based violence, empower vulnerable and marginalized communities and ensure their access to basic rights and justice.
Through the year, IDLO carried out programs in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Honduras, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Somalia, as well as regional projects in Latin America and in the Middle East/North Africa region. We also initiated new programs in Burundi, Liberia, Mali, Mongolia and Tunisia.
During 2015, IDLO’s Supporting Access to Justice in Afghanistan (SAJA) team provided a total of 55 capacity building training sessions benefiting 989 participants (422 women, 567 men)* from diverse organizations, including the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) units at the AGO, Women’s Protection Centers (WPCs), ministries, and legal aid providers. In 2015, the number of EVAW units – established with IDLO’s support and tasked with investigating and prosecuting crimes of violence against women – rose to 19 (from 13 in 2014). The AGO announced its intention to establish aunit in each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Training focused mostly on the EVAW law and the2014 Criminal Procedure Code, as well as forensic medicine and interviewing techniques. Specific training was held for 28 Ministry of Justice staff (on media relations), 17 members of the Afghan Legal Aid and Advocates Network (ALAAN) (on case management),11 ALAAN members (on effective defense statementsand criminal trial principles), 48 WPC workers (on security practices) and 30 WPCs defense lawyers, instructors and caretakers (on psychological trauma).
The SAJA team is also assisting partner organizations (EVAW units of the AGO and WPC) in updating their database and helped EVAW units to develop a set of Standard Operating Procedures for case filing and employee training records. A comprehensive work plan for a partner WPC was developed through a consultative process.
In August 2015, IDLO’s SAJA team launched apublic legal awareness radio series titled ‘Your Rights, Your Life’. The program was broadcast weekly on Ariana Radio, which covers all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, with repeat broadcasts on eight regional channels. A 24/7 hotline was also launched in conjunction with the program, to receive feedback from listeners andprovide them with information.
The Legal Aid component of the program facilitated the establishment of a legal aid network titled Afghanistan Legal Aid and Advocates Network (ALAAN – see page 45). Due to its achievements and the additional needs identified, it was extended by 15 months to March 2017.
* Each participant has been counted as many times as they have attended trainings. On counting each person once, the total number of participants is 793 (320 women, 473 men).
The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (BNHRC) is the country’s main human rights monitoring body, mandated to oversee the implementation of state obligations to respect the rights of its citizens. IDLO’s program contributed to strengthening the institutional capacity of the commission to fulfil its mandate.
Under this program, IDLO provided the BNHRC with training and tools to be able to better perform its duties.
As in 2014, IDLO conducted workshops, seminars and trainings for the BNHRC and NGOs on legal reform, monitoring, investigation and reporting on serious violations, the Universal Periodic Review and other elements of the UN human rights system. Specific training was provided to 13 newly-recruited BNHRC staff in October 2015.
In June 2015, IDLO organized an event on the premises of the Daily Star newspaper, presenting the international legal norms that prohibit torture and how they apply to Bangladesh. This was in response to efforts by certain law enforcement agencies to seek exception from the application of the Torture Act, 2013, with regard tothe use of interrogation techniques.
IDLO also supported the drafting of the BNHRC Shadow Report to the Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women committee and published the BHNRC shadow report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which had been submitted in October 2014.
In December 2015, IDLO published a Law Reform Study on Sexual Offences in Bangladesh, and submitted a Guidance Note for BNHRC Legislative Review, which explains the relationship between international human rights law and Bangladeshi law, and methods and criteria for reviewing statutes for their conformitywith international human rights law. IDLO also curated the creation of an e-library containing the most up- to-date collection on serious violations of human rights, humanitarian law and international criminal law violations.
Through a holistic approach, the program aims to reach out to all actors involved in the cycle of violence: victims, justice providers and perpetrators. Program goals include creating access to justice services for women, children and other victims of domestic and intra-familial violence; promoting legal awareness in target communities; building the capacity and skills of justice sector operators; expanding access to justice and legal services for detainees and prisoners; developing a framework for rehabilitation, re-integrative services and non-custodial sentencing options for prisoners; and advocating for a juvenile justice framework. Program activities are carried out in partnership with national institutions and civil society organizations.
In 2015, IDLO liaised with a wide range of stakeholders, including: the judiciary; the Security Commission of the National Congress; the National Commission for Human Rights; the Honduran Penitentiary Institute; the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture-National Prevention Commission; the Vice-Minister of Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralization; the Secretariat of Government Cooperation; the Directorate of Management for Results; the Directorate of Strategic Planning; the Superior Court of Auditors; the National Autonomous University of Honduras; and civil society organizations.
The creation of four High Level Technical Committees (Mesas Técnicas de Coordinación) bringing together representatives from across Honduran institutions ensures their engagement with and collaboration in the design and implementation of program activities. Activities in San Pedro Sula led to the local municipality and civil society organizations agreeing to actively participate in the design and implementation of an institutional mechanism to respond to violence. The identification of local civil society partners was essential to enable IDLO to operate in the complex and dangerous context of the target neighborhoods, where the trust and recognition of the local community are key.
In 2015, IDLO continued to support the Gender Directorate of the Ministry of Devolution and Planning (MDP) in the development of standard gender training tools, including a Gender Management System Training Manual and GMS Training Guide, launched on 6 May 2015. These tools will assist the Ministry in the institutionalization of gender mainstreaming across government ministries, departments and agencies, with a view to ensuring that gender issues are incorporated at all stages of the policy making and implementation process. This marked a critical step in the standardization of gender capacity building for the national government, and ultimately harmonization of gender mainstreaming work within the public service.
IDLO also provided support to the MDP in the development and finalization of a draft National Equality Policy, which seeks to promote the representation, inclusion and active participation of women, youth, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and marginalized communities in elective and appointive positions, in keeping with the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the constitution.
Also in 2015, IDLO supported the MDP in developingand finalizing the Status of Women Report. The report is anchored in the recognition by the Government of Kenya that gender equality and the empowerment of women are critical to the alleviation of poverty, hunger and disease, as well as the achievement of the National Development Agenda and the implementation of the 2010 Constitution. It captures the progress made by the countryin the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment between July 2008 and December2014, while also highlighting persistent challenges.
In 2015, IDLO worked to establish a Cross-Sector Working Group to lead national public consultationson topics related to the rule of law, human rights,and national reconciliation: these include: judicial independence and its links to sustainable peace-building; preventing and reducing conflict between investors and local populations; pressures from internal migration; and access to state services for persons with disabilities.
To foster public awareness and debate of rule of law issues, an ICT-based dialogue platform – called Danaker – was developed. This comprises a dedicated microsite and several social media modalities, includinga Facebook page. IDLO also supported the launch of a series of weekly Danaker radio programs on Birinci Radio, which covers 80% of the country.
These radio programs – 24 of which have already been aired – have engaged broad sectors of the Kyrgyz public in national dialogue on peacebuilding and reconciliation through the lens of the rule of law. Throughout the year, IDLO delivered a series of public policy dialogues through broad consultations with stakeholders, including members of parliament, public servants, judges, independent experts, political scientists and academics. Conferences and roundtables were organized across the country to advance extensive public dialogue and the formulation of concrete policy ideasand recommendations.
Access to Law for Vulnerable Groups
In 2015, IDLO continued to support efforts to enhance access to justice for vulnerable sectors of society inLatin America, including women suffering violence, youth, indigenous peoples and marginalized communities. It also coordinated an international working group featuring experts from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru, who shared their respective experiences, best practices and lessons learned (read more here).
Argentina: Following training in 2014 for staff from the Ministry of Justice’s decentralized Centers for Access to Justice (CAJ) on rights-awareness campaigns, youths from the CAJ in the northern town of Santiago del Estero designed, planned and carried out a campaign against institutional violence. The aim was to inform young people from vulnerable backgrounds about their rights in case of detention by police. Awareness-raising tools included leaflets, posters, mural paintings and a street theatre performance, which was scripted and staged by the youths themselves in four of the town’s most problematic neighborhoods.
Brazil: Work continued to support the sustainability of the IDLO-backed House of Rights in the Cidade de Deus favela in Rio de Janeiro. In 2014-2015 the House provided a solution to some 26,000 cases including issues with identity papers, legal proceedings, child acknowledgement and alimony, and neighbor disputes.
Honduras: IDLO provided technical assistance to expand the services offered in the Tegucigalpa-based Centerfor the Assistance and Protection of Women’s Rights (CAPRODEM) and ensure its coordination with the Inter-Institutional Protocol for Comprehensive Assistance to Victims of Violence Against Women in Cases of Domestic Violence and Violence Within the Family (PAI), approved at the end of 2013. In 2015, CAPRODEM recorded access by over 200 women. Several more refused to have their details on record for fear of retaliation.
Paraguay: IDLO supported the adoption of the country’s first public policy on access to justice and the creationof the “House of Justice” Program. Houses of Justice are intended to provide information, orientation and reference services, especially in the areas of conflict resolution and legal advice. The first House was opened in October 2015 in the northeastern department of Concepción. Since its inception, the House of Justice has provided assistance in cases ranging from intra-familial violence to alimony, labor issues, identity papers and conflict mediation.
Peru: Access to justice for indigenous communities was enhanced through the translation of rights-awareness materials into local languages - Quechua, Awajun and Shawi. These materials were linked to the pilot intercultural justice protocol created by IDLO in collaboration with the Peruvian judiciary and Ministry of Justice in 2014.
Rule of Law Centers
In 2015, Rule of Law Centers were established in Mandalay (Mandalay Region), Myitkyina (Kachin State) and Taunggyi (Shan State) to strengthen the knowledge, skills and values of legal professionals and increase public legal awareness. The Centers work to increase communities’ abilities to address key local justice issues by linking universal rule of law principles, such as fairness, transparency and respect for human rights, to important local concerns, such as land governance and domestic violence, through training and communityoutreach activities.
In 2015, the ROL Centers trained 19 trainers from around the country and commenced five iterations of the “Foundations in Rule of Law” course, training 120 lawyers, representatives from civil society organizations and law teachers. Outreach activities in Mandalay, Myitkyina and Taunggyi including “open house” events and community fora, provided a rare opportunity for over 190 community members and local government and justice officials to discuss community justice issues.
Capacity Development Mentoring with Justice Sector Institutions
IDLO continues to work with the Union Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) and the Office of the Supreme Court of the Union (OSCU) to support ongoing efforts to develop modern training programs to develop justice officials’ knowledge, skills and abilities in line with rule of law principles. IDLO is providing ongoing technical guidance and mentoring support to the Training Departments of the UAGO and OSCU in the elaboration of capacity development plans and review of training program curriculum.
In 2015, IDLO trained 130 law officers at the UAGO on the common law tradition and its relation to Myanmar, as well as the common law of evidence. In October 2015, IDLO conducted a review of past and existing capacity development activities for both institutions and proposed recommendations for overall institutional capacity reform.
Eight officers from civil society organizations in South-Central Somalia were offered training, developed in consultation with local stakeholders. The training curriculum aimed to address the existing knowledge deficit in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) issues, and contribute to improved awareness about the many barriers (cultural, legal and systemic) that make it very difficult for a survivor of GBV to seek and obtain justice.
Topics covered included: the role civil society can play in addressing GBV issues and offering solutions; recommendations on research, monitoring and policy writing; and communication skills.
Based on the training, the eight officers conducted research in three of Somalia’s regions, including one that was experiencing heavy fighting at the time.
The report resulting from this research was presented to civil society and government stakeholders in October 2015 and is the basis for ongoing advocacy.
In 2015, over 300 people received legal assistance through IDLO partner organizations in Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. Twenty-one people from government institutions, international organizations, civil society and academia in six countries participated in IDLO’s Spanish language e-learning course ‘Using the Law and Policy for an Effective Response to HIV’ in April-May 2015. Participants reported that the course improved their management of HIV-related legal cases, and strengthened national and regional professional networking.
In July 2015, IDLO provided technical and financial support for national consultations to strengthen and expand HIV-related legal services in each of the five project countries. The consultations also strengthened links between national institutions and civil society organizations responding to HIV in each country.
In October 2015, IDLO facilitated a sub-regional meeting on HIV-related legal services and affected populations for Southern Cone countries, in Montevideo, Uruguay. The meeting was held in collaboration with UNAIDS, UNDP and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI), and was attended by representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. The participants identified synergies between universities, civil society organizations, networks of people living with HIV and government institutions, in order to better articulate and coordinate the provision of HIV-related legal services. They also identified common factors that prevent people with HIV from exercising their rights, and gaps that need to be filled to improve the quality of legal services in this area. This was the third sub-regional meeting conducted by IDLO, the previous ones having covered Central America and the Andean region.
Middle East and North Africa
In 2015, over 1,300 people received legal information and advice through these services in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.
In the same countries, IDLO national partners also trained over 900 people, including lawyers, health professionals, law and medical students, academics and members of civil society organizations. Topics included HIV and law, the rights of PLHIV, how to provide legal services to PLHIV, and legal advocacy to address HIV-related discrimination. In all six countries, PLHIV received legal literacy trainings to be able to understand and claim their rights. IDLO also convened multi-stakeholder dialogues involving relevant ministries (health, justice, interior) and national human rights commissions.
In Jordan, the use of media, such as public TV, radio, social media, theatre and music, was key in tackling stigma and discrimination by informing the public about the rightsof people living with HIV.
In Egypt, the work of IDLO’s 12 civil society partner organizations focused on discrimination in access to health care, as well as at work and in the community. IDLO partners organized legal awareness sessions for over 540 people living with HIV and key populations. These sessions were also attended by lawyers, public health actors, religious leaders, and community representatives.
Telephone HIV legal hotlines operate in Cairo and Alexandria. The hotline in Cairo, which started in January 2015, provided legal advice to 325 people. Subsequently, 214 people received in-person legal advice. In Alexandria the hotline provided legal advice to 152 people.In April 2015, IDLO conducted a three-day consultation and training meeting for its Egyptian civil society partners. Participants included legal experts, representatives of PLHIV and key populations, the National AIDS Program, and UNAIDS. The meeting strengthened collaboration between participants, developed a legal services referral list, and facilitated the sharing of experiences in case management and litigation.
In January 2015, IDLO’s partner organization Association Béninoise de Droit du Developpement (ABDD) organized a workshop on HIV, law and human rights for 29 participants which included psychologists, mediators, lawyers, police officers and members of key populations. In the course of the year, ABDD provided legal consultations to 58 people, legal assistance to another 60 and information to over 2650. Most frequent cases included stigmatization and discrimination within the family and in the workplace, divulgation of HIV status by third parties, denial of inheritance and abandonment of family members (wife, children) on account of HIV status.