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How access to justice is being established in remote communities in Lviv oblast

Publication date: October 4, 2023

Author: Halyna Kolesnyk, Head of the Communications Cluster of the Legal Development Network

Since February 2023, the Legal Development Network has supported the initiative of the NGO “Youth Initiative Center” (Chervonohrad, Lviv oblast). The organization systematically assisted two remote communities Belz and Dobrotvir, located near Poland’s border.

Both communities still did not have systematic access to legal aid. The lack of convenient transportation and the general absence of any legal aid providers were obstacles to this.

Thanks to the systematic support of the Youth Initiative Center for almost eight months, residents of Belz and Dobrotvir communities understood what rights they have and who they can turn to in case of violation. As a result, the number of applications for legal aid has increased.

Local governments have improved the quality of service delivery and communication skills with community residents.

Local governments have strengthened their communication with remote villages, and tools are being developed to increase the capacity to assist, including a mobile office consisting of specialists in various fields, including a lawyer and a psychologist, to visit remote villages. Thanks to the results obtained, the organization received a request to create and develop legal services from another community, Velyki Mosty. These and other changes are described below.

Legal aid

At the beginning of the initiative, the Youth Initiative Center conducted a small survey among the residents of Dobrotvir and Belz communities, which 173 people attended. The survey showed that, for example, the most common issues in the Dobrotvir community are land issues and where and what services can be obtained.

Older people have the most problems in the Belz community, and the community is also concerned about youth employment. Residents are looking for opportunities to create a youth center. At the same time, it turned out that the problems of internally displaced persons are not widespread, as most of them have left the communities.

At the beginning of the school year, specialists from the Youth Initiative Center helped ninth-graders at Dobrotvir School understand the types of responsibilities of minors. Photo from the Facebook page of the Youth Initiative Center

Thanks to the established relationships with local authorities, the organization’s specialists monitor the topics of appeals and their geography. Local governments also collect requests from community residents and contact the Youth Initiative Center. Taking this information into account, the organization planned monthly visits to them. Individual and group counseling was provided, and legal education events were held for village headmen, too.

Photo: Andrii Mytsak, a lawyer of the Youth Initiative Center, advises a mobile office visit to the Belz community in July. The issues of establishing that a person owns title documents, collecting alimony from a missing person, benefits for military families, the procedure for appointing a guardian, etc., are relevant to residents. Photo from the Facebook page of the Youth Initiative Center

Through systematic work with village headmen, clerks, and other employees of various local government departments, Dobrotvir plans to introduce comprehensive visits in the format of a “mobile office” by land surveyors, pension fund specialists, social security specialists, lawyers, and case of conflict, a psychologist from the Youth Initiative Center to remote villages. The same practice has been extended to the Belz and Velyki Mosty communities.

Implementation of tools

In addition to helping to solve the legal problems of community residents, the Youth Initiative Center is developing several essential tools to address critical issues. For example, a guidebook with a list of services and contacts for obtaining these services was created for residents of the Dobrotvir community.

Photo: Natalka Kostyshyn, head of the board of the Youth Initiative Center

“The Dobrotvir community consists of settlements in different districts, so people do not always understand where to go and what service to get. The military commissariat here is from one former district, social protection from another, educational and cultural institutions from a third district, and so on. A community resident often goes to the center of the former district to receive a particular service. The institution no longer performs this function, or the institution itself no longer exists. So we are now organizing a list of contacts and addresses for residents of the Dobrotvir community, indicating the services that can be obtained,” says Natalka Kostyshyn, head of the board of the Youth Initiative Center.

In addition, to ensure that community residents have a proper understanding of how local democracy tools work, samples of procedural documents are being developed for them: a request for public information, a citizen’s appeal, and templates for complaints, proposals, and recommendations.

“We want to explain the law on citizens’ appeals, the law on access to public information, and how to use it as a tool. To effectively disseminate this explanation, we are collecting information on who receives the most appeals and their topics,” says Natalka Kostyshyn.

Problem-solving in communities

Another example of systematic work in communities is the ability to influence conflict resolution. For example, the Belz community conducted a land audit and discovered that it was losing several million hryvnias to the budget due to a large amount of land of deceased heritage. Community members began to formalize it but expressed great anger that they had to pay money for land that had belonged to them for several generations. The lawyers of the Youth Initiative Center began to work on this problem and explained why the procedure was such and what the consequences of inaction would be for them, which would be the loss of land. After some time, the situation turned from “betrayal” to constructive, and the land issue was resolved.

Another example of responsiveness is the Velyki Mosty community, one of the first communities to form in the Lviv oblast. It is working on its development, creating a favorable investment climate in the community, and providing various services, including social and legal ones. In addition, the community has recently implemented several youth initiatives in some villages with the support of Kyiv Dialogue. The practice had a good impact, so the community tried to move further: to develop youth centers and create a public youth council as an advisory body to the local government. Needing to master the tools of local democracy and project management, the community turned to the Youth Initiative Center, which began to help them acquire these skills and knowledge.

The material was created with the support of the international charitable platform GlobalGiving and Legal Empowerment Fund (program of the Fund for Global Human Rights) and the Legal Development Network. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Legal Development Network and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations mentioned above.

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