Legal Empowerment

Rights mean little if those entitled to them are not aware they exist. Due process is of doubtful value when you are illiterate, or unable to understand the proceedings. Courts are next to worthless for those who cannot afford the bus fare to reach them. Nor should justice be about courts alone. For all these reasons, legal empowerment is crucial. Part of IDLO's bottom-up (or demand side) approach, it involves equipping people with the knowledge, confidence and skills to realize their rights. Even as we work to improve the functioning of justice systems, we strengthen citizens' capacity to press for justice from below.

The rule of law only exists to the extent that it works for all.

Mali's 'Justice FM'

Mali’s crisis of 2012-2013, in which two-thirds of the country was occupied by Tuareg rebels and Islamic extremists, was accompanied by brutal rule in the North and a near-collapse of the state. Many victims have yet to see redress for the abuses they suffered; justice remains elusive.

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Key Initiatives

  • Sustainable management of natural resources in Indonesia is negatively affected by overlapping land permits, with local governments, companies, local populations and indigenous people simultaneously claiming the same land. In East Kalimantan, the government has identified several nature reserve areas, but in the same area there are vast coal deposits, oil palm plantation sites and timber, gas, oil and coal extraction companies. Beyond this, local communities claim ownership of land based on historic or customary rights.

  • Fires are affecting forests and peat lands in Indonesia. This is problematic because these areas are often declared de facto open areas for which the government grants licenses to concession companies. Overlapping permits can result in farmers being displaced on their own lands, tenure conflicts and the criminalization or eviction of rural communities.

  • Somalia constitutes a country of origin, destination, transit, and return for large movements of people across the Horn of Africa. Movement is driven by the intersecting challenges of protracted and persistent conflict, failing systems of governance, and limited employment and livelihood opportunities. More than 2.1 million Somalis live in protracted displacement, with 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an additional 1 million Somalis hosted as refugees in countries in the immediate region.

  • As part of IDLO’s continuous commitment to accountability and results-based management, IDLO is pleased to share this Mid-Term Evaluation Brief (summarised evaluation report): “Supporting Access to Justice in Afghanistan (SAJA)”. The evaluation has been conducted by independent evaluation experts, supervised by IDLO’s Evaluation Unit.

  • Although South Sudan attained independence from Sudan in 2011, the country has since witnessed violent conflict and military infighting following subsequent political crises. The fragile political situation and ongoing conflict in the country has made it difficult for ordinary citizens to seek and access justice. Almost 90% of disputes are resolved in informal justice systems, and the uneven legal training in both Sudanese Sharia law and English common law have resulted in a weak legal and judicial system that has failed to provide effective legal remedies to South Sudanese citizens.

  • As part of IDLO’s continuous commitment to accountability and results-based management, IDLO is pleased to share this Evaluation Brief for the project, "Enhancing the Capacity of the Legal Professional in Somalia for the Delivery of Justice". The evaluation has been conducted by independent evaluation experts, supervised by IDLO’s Evaluation Unit.

  • Renforcement de la chaine pénale au nord du Mali. En 2016, l’IDLO a lancé un programme de cinq ans au Mali, financé par le Gouvernement des Pays-Bas : « Renforcement de la chaîne pénale au nord du Mali ».

  • The Kyrgyz judiciary is not favorably viewed by the public and, at the same time, the public is not well-informed about the functions and duties of the courts. To assist the judiciary in strengthening communications with the public, IDLO under the USAID-IDLO Judicial Strengthening Program, has been providing assistance in the development of a communications strategy for the judiciary and training of new press secretaries of local courts taking up their duties for the first time in the history of the Kyrgyz Republic.

  • While showing steady progress, the formal justice system in Somalia remains fragile. Somalis continue to use traditional dispute resolution (TDR) mechanisms to resolve conflicts in their communities due to their physical accessibility, low cost and legitimacy in the eyes of local participants. The TDR system has the potential to improve access to justice in Somalia, but at the same time informal justice can reinforce forms of discrimination and support practices that do not comply with international human rights standards.

  • After 20 years of civil war, Somalia remains in the grip of a major human security crisis, with violence and widespread poverty. To address the justice needs of the people of Somalia, particularly members of vulnerable groups, IDLO is working to build the capacity of the private bar to adequately represent clients’ interests and rights in the justice system.

  • Since Kyrgyzstan's independence in 1991, the country's Judiciary has suffered from financial shortfalls. This resulted in a lack of capacity to improve the quality of decision making and regularly update the level of judges' knowledge of current legislation. One particular area of importance for judicial training is commercial law, crucial for Kyrgyzstan in seeking to reduce corruption and spur economic development.

  • As in many transition countries, the Kyrgyz judicial system suffers from a low rate of court decision enforcement, with lengthy delays common, and a rate of successful enforcement estimated at only 30%. Moreover, significant challenges exist in relation to prevention and punishment of debtors who hide assets or evade court orders, and a lack of a database where bailiffs can easily obtain necessary information on debtors. 

  • Building on two phases of successful programming to support Montenegro’s EU readiness, IDLO is working to enhance the capacity of its main partner in the country: the Judicial Training Center (JTC). The judiciary is struggling to address disputes arising from foreign investment in real estate and tourism, interpretation of foreign contracts in accordance with international best practice and EU directives. 

  • In Burundi, land tenure registration is the primary way for the government to deal with the large number of land disputes across the country. A series of pilot programs aimed at resolving land rights issues have been initiated in recent years. To date, however, it is unclear whether these pilot programs have had their intended effect of reducing the number of land disputes.

  • ​In June 2015, IDLO commenced the project: Researching the Impact of Land Tenure Registration on Land Disputes and Women’s Land Rights in Burundi.

    Land Tenure Registration (LTR) programs involve issuing proof of ownership to holders of land rights to increase their legal certainty. Such programs are undertaken for a variety of reasons. While much is known about the impact of LTR on factors like access to credit and agricultural output, there is a gap in knowledge of its impact on land disputes, particularly in post-conflict settings.

  • IDLO, working together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), implemented the first phase of its Rule of Law Centres initiative, from July 2015 to June 2016. The Centres provide training, with a substantive focus on local justice issues linked to international rule of law principles including fairness and equality, to lawyers, law teachers, and civil society representatives, as well as fostering general awareness of the law among the public. The long-term goal is to build greater trust in Myanmar's jus

  • Under the Liberia SGBV program launched in January 2016, IDLO will work with the judiciary to enhance the efficiency, transparency and accountability of Criminal Court “E” in Montserrado, the special court designated to deal exclusively with sexual offenses established in 2008, and improve access to justice and protection mechanisms for victims of SGBV.

  • Civil society in Ukraine is well organized and able to exert considerable influence, especially since the Maidan Revolution. It is widely agreed that targeted support for civil society organizations (CSOs) can amplify the success of reforms that strengthen the rule of law and eliminate corruption. With this is mind, we are working to empower CSOs to monitor and engage with the current reform processes in public administration, rule of law and justice sectors.

  • While acknowledging the importance of national reform efforts, our program in Ukraine emphasizes and assists regional reform initiatives. We are helping develop and implement the reform agenda launched in Odessa, in an effort to position the Black Sea region as Ukraine’s de facto anti-corruption capital.

  • IDLO has concentrated its efforts on the city of Mopti. As well as an important commercial center and Mali's country's main port, Mopti forms both the geographic and symbolic link between the country's North and South. During the conflict, it served as a frontline destination for displaced people.

  • Through its Supporting Access to Justice in Afghanistan (SAJA) program, IDLO is working to improve access to justice through activities targeting legal aid, prosecution of crimes of violence against women, the effectiveness of Women’s Protection Centers, and legal awareness. This program is building on achievements of the INL-funded National Justice Sector Strategy (NJSS) Program.

    Specific activities under the SAJA program include:

  • IDLO is working with the disadvantaged in Paraguay under the European Union’s EUROsociAL program, supporting the provision of free legal advice to residents in one of Asunción's poorest neighborhoods. This is the first step towards strengthening access to rights and justice for deprived communities in the country in line with the Brasilia Regulations on Access to Justice. The project being is being implemented in collaboration with the Paraguayan Ministry of Justice.

  • IDLO is working in Costa Rica with the European Union’s EUROsociAL program to empower migrant women and refugees who are victims of violence. The project, supported by Costa Rica’s judiciary and France Expertise Internationale (FEI), provides orientation and legal assistance to vulnerable migrant women, in line with the Brasilia Regulations on Access to Justice.

  • IDLO has been working to empower some of Brazil’s most disadvantaged, within the framework of the European Union’s EUROsociAL program. The Brasilia Regulations Regarding Access to Justice for Vulnerable People, adopted in 2008, serve as a basis for our intervention. In collaboration with Brazil’s Ministry of Justice, we are leading the Access to Law element of the program, which is co-ordinated by France Expertise Internationale (FEI).

  • IDLO has been working with victims of gender violence and disadvantaged young people through the EU’s EUROsociAL program. Backed by Argentina’s Ministry of Justice, the initiative is aimed at raising awareness about women’s rights and increasing legal assistance. Youth access to education is also being promoted through the project, which is being co-ordinated by France Expertise Internationale (FEI).

  • In December 2006, IDLO assisted graduates from its Defense Lawyers Training in launching a nationwide Afghan movement to promote access to justice and legal awareness, and pro­vide legal aid services to the poor. Ever since, IDLO has supported and improved legal aid in Afghanistan through training, technical assistance, monitoring, evaluation and financial support.

  • While the new Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provides for the right of every Kenyan to access justice, its implementation is vital to strengthen and support the changes required for a better Kenya. IDLO is supporting the Kenyan Government to implement the Constitution in an effective, efficient and sustainable manner, in accordance with international standards and best practices. This is being done with a view to enhancing access to justice for Kenyans, especially for women, children and other vulnerable populations.

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