International Development Law Organization

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.

Foundations of justice training in Myanmar

In recent years, civil society has played an increasingly important role in strengthening public legal awareness and advocating for access to justice in Myanmar. However, civil society is constrained by a limited understanding of the role of the legal system. Capacity development to enhance the knowledge and skills of civil society actors, as well as state accountability, remains a key priority.

Community justice in Uganda

Like other countries on the African continent, the Ugandan justice sector faces many challenges. Citizens demonstrate a widespread distrust towards formal justice institutions, which are perceived as corrupt, removed from the communities, expensive and slow to resolve disputes. This lack of confidence in the formal system leads people to resort to other means to seek recourse, and may also increase the likelihood of violence and further corruption.

IDLO entrega a la Municipalidad modelo de respuesta institucional a la violencia

San Pedro Sula, 21 de noviembre, 2017 – La Organización Internacional de Derecho para el Desarrollo, IDLO por su sigla en inglés, entrega el día de hoy una herramienta integral para fortalecer la respuesta a nivel local en materia de acceso a derechos de las personas vulnerables víctimas de la violencia en los ámbitos de vida y convivencia del Municipio de San Pedro Sula.

Evaluation (Final) of the project "Supporting Access to Justice (SAJA) in Afghanistan"

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

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Key Initiatives

  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ».
  • 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.
  • IDLO implemented a project aimed at improving access to justice services for rural and marginalized citizens in South Sudan by supporting legal aid and through building the capacity of rule of law actors. The project included training for paralegals, civil society organizations and legal professionals to enable them to effectively carry out their duties of justice service delivery.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In recent years, civil society has played an increasingly important role in strengthening public legal awareness and advocating for access to justice in Myanmar. However, civil society is constrained by a limited understanding of the role of the legal system. Capacity development to enhance the knowledge and skills of civil society actors, as well as state accountability, remains a key priority.
  • Recent research shows that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is one of the leading problems impacting communities across Myanmar. Women in particular face significant and widespread levels of SGBV, with both formal and informal systems failing to provide satisfactory remedies. Inadequate legal protections, combined with pervasive cultural and social stigma, low public legal awareness, and deep mistrust in the formal justice system, pose a daunting range of barriers to accessing justice and other services such as legal, medical and psycho-social support.
  • In 2011, Indonesia adopted a law on legal aid which includes a national budget for legal aid providers to deliver access to justice and legal aid services to the poor. However, there is a lack of legal aid lawyers and organizations throughout the country, and lawyers do not necessarily have the sufficient skills for delivering legal aid services with a human rights, gender equality and social justice perspective. Many organizations also deal with a limited administrative capacity and struggle to meet the requirements in conducting legal aid reimbursement.
  • The Government of Indonesia is committed to providing fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable services to promote access to justice for all, including members of vulnerable groups. A national program to safeguard access to justice was included in the National Strategy on Access to Justice 2016-2019. Yet, a national tool to collect data and measure the levels of access to justice for people in the country is still missing.
  • In recent years Jordan has taken significant steps toward promoting economic development, including through strengthening rule of law. Judicial specialization in relevant areas, while promoting an enabling environment for capacity development within the relevant judicial institutions is crucial to maximize the impact of those efforts and ensure sustainability. At the same time, attention has been given to encouraging entrepreneurship, in particular women entrepreneurs, as a means to achieve economic growth.
  • Strengthening prevention and accountability for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through the rule of law and access to justice has been a priority for the Government of Myanmar since 2011, when it embarked on an unprecedented transition towards democracy. SGBV cases are rarely reported and, when they are, the justice sector fails to provide adequate remedies. Therefore, there is a widely recognized need to increase prevention of and accountability for SGBV.
  • Alternative dispute resolution, and in particular mediation, is finally gaining momentum in Tajikistan. Previous attempt to introduce law on mediation in Tajikistan have not been successful and consequently there is currently no formal legal framework for mediation. In the first phase of the project, the International Development Law Organization worked to promote commercial mediation and build momentum for its expansion. However, there is still the need to provide assistance to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mediation Center and improve its effectiveness.
  • Since the revolution in 2011, Tunisia has experienced a period of significant political transition and change culminating in the adoption of a new constitution in 2014, which called for justice reform and protection of women’s rights. However, the practical application of the framework for legal assistance in Tunisia demonstrates the insufficiency of existing relevant mechanisms. Therefore, there is the strong need to empower women to access justice and claim their rights.
  • IDLO is rolling out a program that aims to secure accessible, quality and sustainable justice services for citizens - particularly those living in rural, poor and other disadvantaged communities. The Community Justice Programme (CJP) supports both state and non-state legal aid, legal empowerment and other justice delivery interventions.
  • Following the Tunisian revolution of  2011, the new Constitution adopted in 2014 aimed to embed the principle of equality between women and men as well as ensuring the State’s obligation to protect women’s rights. However, despite the reforms to the legal framework in Tunisia to increase protection for women against gender-based violence, justice sector professionals, particularly judges and bailiffs, have limited knowledge, skills and capacity to act as effective gender justice agents, as stipulated by the new Law.
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