New tools in human rights protection. What solutions were developed in the frame of Kyiv Legal Empowerment Practical Program?

How to enhance citizens’ legal capacity? How this objective can be achieved with the help of Design Thinking? What tools are already in place in the area of human rights protection for vulnerable groups of the population? What prototype solutions for solving common problems with access to justice were developed by participants of the Kyiv Legal Empowerment Practical Program – see the material below.

“Access to justice is complicated by a lack of uniform solutions. For any system to be effective, it should take into account its specific needs and characteristics. Therefore, this program (Kyiv Legal Empowerment Practical Program) is based on principles of Design Thinking. It first allows you to examine the problem issue in details, then to try to formulate a prototype solution for yourself, to elaborate it in a certain group of people, who are not so well informed about the issue, and then to try to come up with a sustainable solution, which you can use in the future”, said Roman Romanov, Director of the Human Rights and Justice Program of the International Renaissance Foundation.

On September 13-18, 2019, the Kyiv Legal Empowerment Practical Program (KLEPP) was held in Kyiv. This program was based on the innovative approach to training and post-training support, and offered a platform for sharing experience and networking in the area of ​​access to justice for national and international teams selected on a competitive basis.

“The idea behind the creation of a school and launching a legal empowerment program was to create a space to facilitate both sharing experience and learning from our colleagues from abroad. Based on the experience of this program held over the last week, we can say that we have managed to create such a space”, – said Evgen Poltenko, Executive Director of the Legal Development Network.

Five national teams from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Argentina took part in the program. The teams shared their experiences and legal capacity building tools. Program participants identified the problem of access to justice in their own countries and developed prototype solutions. To achieve this, the program organizers chose a Design Thinking approach.

Solutions developed in the course of the Program included mobile applications for easy access to registers, “hot buttons” for victims of domestic violence, among others.

National teams were selected on a competitive basis. The selection process took place in July 2019. The teams involved community paralegals, representatives of vulnerable groups, local community leaders, lawyers, civil servants, as well as representatives of other institutions and communities working in the area of access to justice.

“It was an open international competition. But first, the participants submitted individual applications. Later on they were grouped into teams, in which they had to agree on the problems they were going to handle while working here, in Ukraine. It is very important for us now to see, whether that approach was really useful, whether it allows us to identify the realistic problems and to create teams capable of creating prototype solutions”, said Roman Romanov.

Mykola Sioma, director of the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, said the problems that the teams came up with were quite typical, since most people tend to bypass the legal way of solving the issue, either through ignorance or for legal procedures being too complex:

“Although we all have different experiences, we are united by the fact that people in those countries have some difficulty in finding a proper legal solution. As a rule, when people are confronted with a legal obstacle, they very often might try to overcome it in an illegal way, on the advice of a neighbor or a friend”.

The focus of the Ukrainian team was the seniors, for whom the Program participants created a mobile application.

Olga Borodina, director of the Zaporizhzhya Local Center for Providing Free Secondary Legal Aid, said as follows:

“We have set a rather ambitious goal: to create a mobile app for seniors that can be used to easily find a procedure for legal solution by entering a keyword. We are aware that not all seniors in our country have smartphones, unlike the Western European countries, for example. However, such an app will help you find the necessary answers based on keywords / problem statements / questions – promptly and comfortably, as well as to understand the further procedure to solve your problem. For example, the answers might come in the form of registers of lawyers, registers of free legal aid centers, civic associations that work on certain issues, among others. Of course, we still need to fine-tune this idea. When it comes to implementing this entire concept, elderly people will need to be trained to use such applications, in particular, through the assistance of legal aid providers”.

Olga Borodina in the Ukrainian team is a representative of the free legal aid provision system, whereas the other team participants are coming from other backgrounds: representatives of NGOs, community paralegals, a police representative and a lawyer.

Olga also said that her expectations were fulfilled, as she had seen the experience of other countries, which helped broaden horizon in setting new objectives.

“For example, I was impressed by the experience of Moldova. They have the same free legal aid system, but their specialists have access to electronic media that can confirm a person’s right to legal aid. We do not have that yet. In other words, while our clients go collecting numerous certificates, our colleagues in Moldova already have access to those registers; hence, they do not need to have clients collect those certificates. This significantly simplifies access to free legal aid”.

As we mention the Moldovan team, it is worth noting that the Program participants from Moldova presented an interesting innovative solution to help victims of domestic violence in the form of a “hot button”.

“The problem we came up here with is timely assistance to victims of domestic violence. A lot of efforts is taken in our country to solve this problem, however, there is an issue regarding how quickly victims of domestic violence can get this help. Unfortunately, in most cases it takes a long time. Therefore we came up with an idea of a ​“hot button” for victims of domestic violence”, said Kirut Sergio, Coordinator of Kishinev’s Territorial Legal Aid Office.

A hot button means to guarantee for victims a constant access to help in case of threat, so that victims can use it any time they need. Personal data and location tracking must be linked to the “button”. In this way, it would be possible to respond quickly and help victims in a timely fashion. It is still to be determined what this button will be from a purely technical point of view: whether it should be built into the phone or into some household item. At this point, program participants expect to launch a pilot project and test it on sex workers, as they are in the high-risk group of exposure to violence.

The School founders say it will be an annual program and next year plan to expand the number and geography of participants.

“With this program, we are committed to fulfilling the general great mission that is set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as Access to Justice for All. The program may be considered successful, if the links between the program participants from different countries are maintained even after the Program completion. Surely, it would not be possible to achieve that without basic human communication and cooperation. And this will be one of the indicators of our Program’s success”, – said Evgen Poltenko, Executive Director of the Legal Development Network.

The School founders say that they decided to make the Program international in order not to limit themselves to one nation only. On the one hand, the school is designed to train participants, on the other hand, we, the Ukrainian representatives, become enriched thanks to other nations sharing their best practices with us.

“We, the International Renaissance Foundation, together with the Canadian Project, supported this entire program and generally initiated the development of the Ukrainian Access to Justice School of Practice. This is an absolutely unique project and an attempt to ensure the sustainability of access to justice practices”, said Roman Romanov, Director of the International Renaissance Foundation’s Human Rights and Justice Program.

KLEPP program was implemented by the Ukrainian Access to Justice School of Practice (Ukrainian A2J School of Practice). The school was established in accordance with the memorandum signed on May 21, 2019, by its founders: Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, Coordination Center for Legal Aid, Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, Legal Development Network, and Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine. The school is managed by the Founders’ Council and the School’s Steering Committee.

The School’s partners are international and national institutions that support the development of access to justice in Ukraine on a long-term basis. The School is supported by the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine, the US Embassy in Ukraine, the US Agency for International Development, the Canadian Bureau of International Education, and the International Renaissance Foundation.

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