WINTER INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COURSE ON THE BANKS OF ISSYK-KUL
Author: Yevgen Poltenko, Executive Director of the Legal Development Network (Ukraine)
January 2021 marked not only the beginning of the year but also the start of practical cooperation between human rights associations of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan – the International Winter Course to strengthen the capacity of the National Network for the development of state-guaranteed legal aid in the Kyrgyz Republic
What: International Winter Course for Capacity Building of the National Network for the Development of State-Guaranteed Legal Aid in the Kyrgyz Republic (National Network)
Where: Chok Tal, Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
When: January 22-27, 2021
Organizers: National Network, Legal Development Network (Ukraine), Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan
Participants: 25 representatives of 13 Kyrgyz human rights organizations, mostly heads of organizations or departments (94%), women (63%), residents of urban settlements (89%) aged 30-45 (42%)
Course key points:
- Comparison of state-guaranteed legal aid systems in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan
- Experience of creation and development of the Legal Development Network (Ukraine)
- Public monitoring of the provision of legal services
- Advocacy campaign planning
- Information technology in legal aid during the Covid-19 pandemic
Bakyta Kachikeeva and Nina Tezina (Kyrgyzstan)
Maksym Ilchishen and Yevgen Poltenko (Ukraine)
Comparison of state-guaranteed legal aid systems in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan
In Ukraine, the free legal aid system was created as a large-scale government social project – a project of a state institution “with a new face,” whose work should be focused on human needs. The participants got acquainted with the main stages of the creation of the Free Legal Aid System in Ukraine, the functions of each element of this system (coordination center, regional centers, local centers, and legal aid bureaus).
According to the data provided by the Bar of the Kyrgyz Republic, in Kyrgyzstan as of 2020, the total number of active lawyers was 2,231 people or one lawyer for almost 3,000 people. More than half (52.4%) of lawyers live and work in the capital, Bishkek. Representation of the legal profession in other regions is only 47.6%. Simultaneously, the Register of Attorneys for State-Guaranteed Legal Aid (SGLA) Providers includes 628 lawyers or 14.7% of the total number of practicing lawyers. Thus, it can be argued that there is currently a severe problem of low regional representation of lawyers participating in the SGLA system, which is funded to the tune of $ 1 million per year.
Discussions in groups allowed highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the state models of legal aid of the two countries, suggesting options for strengthening these models and strengthening their own positions in cooperation with government agencies. After completing the work in groups, the Course participants were presented with the experience of interaction between the state and public legal aid providers in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
Experience in creating and developing the Legal Development Network (Ukraine) and the National Network
The Legal Development Network is an association of civil society organizations that develop local communities by providing free legal aid. The Network began its formation in 2009 under the name “Network of Legal Information and Consultation Centers.” At that time, eight organizations decided to join forces to develop joint approaches to legal aid in communities, generalize typical appeals, and standardize legal aid provision. Today the Network unites organizations from most regions of Ukraine. These organizations provide the population with basic information on legal issues, actively cooperate with local governments to solve individual problems, protect public interests, implement alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and develop communities and local leadership.
Maksym Ilchishen and Yevgen Poltenko shared with their Kyrgyz counterparts the experience of the Legal Development Network in the development and implementation of service standards, communication strategy, compliance with the principles of good governance in the organization.
The National Network of Non-Profit Organizations for the Development of State-Guaranteed Legal Aid in the Kyrgyz Republic (National Network) since 2018 promotes the implementation of state guarantees for the provision of legal aid in full, the development of social partnership to strengthen legal literacy, protect the rights of vulnerable groups and to improve access to justice. The strategic goal of the National Network is to build a sustainable, influential, efficient unified association of organizations to identify problems and understand the dynamics of development and formation of the legal aid system, strengthening the professional and institutional capacity of network members. Within the framework of the Course, the participants conducted an audit of the services provided by the member organizations, which allowed to form a map of these services, to outline practical steps for their standardization.
Elmira Arapova, Secretary of the Coordination Council of the National Network, shared achievements in implementing the communication strategy of the National Network. The idea of a competition among journalists and bloggers to cover the implementation of the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On State-Guaranteed Legal Aid” deserves special attention. This competition aims to raise awareness of the population of Kyrgyzstan about the practical implementation of this law and increase access to justice for vulnerable groups.
Public monitoring of the provision of legal services
In 2019, the Legal Development Network conducted a large-scale survey of the satisfaction of court visitors with certain aspects of the court’s work on the methodology of public reporting cards within the court performance appraisal system (CPAS). The survey was conducted in 94 courts of Ukraine, where a total of 10,119 respondents were interviewed. One of the main tasks of the study was to identify priority areas for improving the quality of a particular court. As a result of the research, critical problems in the work of courts were identified, and recommendations for their solution were prepared. The implementation of these recommendations should increase public confidence in the judiciary.
In 2020, the Legal Development Network analyzed the state of human rights in the local communities of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Monitoring was carried out using the tools of the Local Human Rights Index in 4 areas of the index: “Social protection of vulnerable categories,” “Decent standard of living,” “Security,” and “Access to justice.” The local human rights index is a monitoring tool to illustrate the state of implementation reforms at the local level through a human rights-based approach. The index areas offer a kind of map of human rights to local authorities and demonstrate the prospects and challenges of implemented reforms from a safe environment and adequate water supply to participatory democracy and quality of administrative services. To recommend to local governments to ensure respect for human rights and improve the efficiency of structural units of local authorities.
Maripa Seidalieva, Chairman of the Coordinating Council of the National Network, presented the results of joint monitoring of the quality of qualified (secondary) legal aid in criminal cases of misdemeanors in the Kyrgyz Republic (2020-2021). Monitoring tools: focus group discussions, expert interviews, the survey of clients of the SGLA system. Problems identified by monitoring results:
- insufficient information of citizens about SGLA, people do not know about the coordinators of the system in the regions
- one in five of the clients surveyed is dissatisfied with the experience of working with their lawyers
- almost half of the respondents do not know what actions to take if a lawyer does not fulfill his/her duties
- more than half of the respondents are not notified by a lawyer about the actions taken in the case
- almost half of the respondents do not trust their lawyers
Advocacy campaign planning
Among the identified by the results of monitoring the quality of qualified (secondary) legal aid in criminal cases of misdemeanors in Kyrgyzstan, the Course participants singled out a fundamental problem, in their opinion – insufficient interaction of lawyers with their clients. To solve this problem draft plan for the advocacy campaign of the National Network has been developed.
The programming of the advocacy campaign was preceded by work in groups, during which the participants of the Course determined the purpose of the advocacy campaign, its target groups, and their representatives, approaches to communication with them.
Information technology in legal aid during the Covid-19 pandemic
The challenges faced by networks of countries in providing legal assistance in countries during the pandemic are similar – lockdown has forced a radical reconsideration of approaches to the provision of legal aid, the organization of teamwork. The experience gained in the effective legal assistance organization in remote formats (phone, video conferencing, e-mail, online chat, case management systems, and project management) was the subject of lively discussion of the Course participants.
It is worth highlighting the recommendations of Nurislam Raimzhanov, a lawyer with the organization “Justice” (Kyrgyzstan). These recommendations allow you to quickly and on your own organize online registration of legal aid applications, using the service Google Forms and public channels in instant messaging services (such as Telegram). Video instruction (in Russian)
Colleagues from the Advocacy Center for Human Rights (Kyrgyzstan) shared a video conferencing algorithm to provide legal advice remotely (in Russian).
Feedback from participants
“An interesting combination of theory, practical examples, presentation, and reflection. The trainers were able to capture their materials during the Course.”
“Ukraine’s experience, international experience is invaluable for the development of the Network. A project idea was born”
“I first learned about paralegals. Handy information, because it is a new institute in our country.”
“Advocacy is the future of the National Network. Interesting !!!! Because they also worked on this topic. Good tools and practical training – help in planning. We were able to generate our ideas and plan our advocacy campaign.”
“The Course revived new ideas. They were able to discuss their recent projects based on the experience of colleagues. This is an impetus for our further work. “
The Course has become a historical stage for strengthening cooperation between human rights organizations in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. During the event, the National Network received a new impetus for its development – the Network adopted bylaws and elected members of the operational governing body – the Coordinating Council. Maripa Seidalieva was elected chairman of the council, and Elmira Arapova was elected its secretary.
After analyzing the session’s materials on the development of the draft advocacy campaign, the National Network plans to clarify and supplement them for further implementation. And the revision of the previous results of the National Network allowed its participants to identify areas of work for the development of network interaction and the introduction of innovations in the Network.
The Course has also become a platform for the development of functional interaction between the National Network and the Legal Development Network. Among the promising joint plans of the two associations from Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine:
- strengthening the expertise of representatives of member organizations of the National Network in the areas of good governance and fundraising;
- adaptation of Kyrgyzstan’s methodologies for researching legal needs and monitoring human rights at the local level;
- joint work within the regional hub of the Legal Empowerment Network “Eastern Europe and Central Asia”;
- preparation of the national team of Kyrgyzstan for participation in the Kyiv Legal Empowerment Practical Program in 2021
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