Background and objectives
The Access to Justice Project commenced with the financial assistance extended from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a result of an agreement entered between the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, upon initiation by the Center for Human Rights, Addis Ababa University as an implementing agency. The Project is built up on a pilot project called “Legal Literacy, Rights Advice and Information for Poor People” that lasted from October 2008 to March 2012 and was evaluated as a success.
The Access to Justice Project started operation in December 2012. The overall objective of the Project is to make a difference, in the long term, to the lives of poor people by raising awareness of their legal rights and by providing them the means by which they can secure redress to rights and social justice. The targeted beneficiaries of the Project are poor and disadvantaged section of the society living in Addis Ababa, Adama, Hawassa, Ambo and surrounding areas of these urban centers. The service rendered by the Project gives special priority to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups such as women, children, the elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS and those with disabilities. To achieve this main objective, the Project has identified the following specific objectives:
- Ensuring that poor people have access to advice and information about their legal rights and the opportunity to seek redress;
- Establishing and strengthening the network of legal aid providers in Ethiopia to ensure that the best practices are shared and that the service is provided in an efficient and coordinated manner;
- Linking academic programs of the Center for Human Rights at Addis Ababa University and the practical knowledge gained through the Project; and,
- Enhancing awareness and practical implementation of human rights laws and standards through research, training and sharing of good practices.
To achieve the objectives that are identified in the Project, different activities are incorporated into the Project plan. The core activities of the Project are the following:
A. Legal literacy and public information of rights:
The Project works to create public awareness of key legal rights affecting the rights and interests of poor and disadvantaged people. The assumption is that people will demand enforcement of their rights only if they are aware of them. This will in turn help them to bite poverty and marginalization. The project uses different means to create awareness of rights. These includes:-
Most legal rights awareness raising activities of the project are carried out using radio broadcasts. The radio programs address a wide range of issues concerning the legal rights of the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged. An hour long legal awareness raising program is broadcast every week on radio stations that have nationwide audience. The radio programs take a variety of formats including phone-in programs, discussion program with experts talking about specific issues, and also story telling indicating how rights affect situations.
The Project also prints and distributes briefing sheets. The briefing sheets have two purposes. In one way they are used to disseminate information on key legal rights affecting the poor and vulnerable in reader friendly lay language. They are also used for advocacy purpose. Gaps in law and practice identified during legal aid service provision are highlighted in the briefing sheets along with recommendations of actions to be taken by the concerned state organ.
Face-to-face legal literacy campaign
Another approach used to raise community legal awareness is through face-to-face teaching of legal rights for people gathering in court houses or for prisoners in prison premises.
B. Legal aid service Provision
The Project has also established urban and rural legal aid centers for the provision of free legal advice and information for poor people. So far the Project has established legal aid service centers in the cities of Addis Ababa, Adma, Hawassa, Ambo and the surrounding rural areas. The Project now is operating in total 17 legal aid service centers and is working to open new outreach centers.
To enhance the accessibility, quality and sustainability of the legal aid service the Project is doing various activities. Some of these are:
Establishing partnership with peer projects and institutions
To enhance the legal aid service provision through the Project the Center for Human Rights establishes partnership agreements with peer institutions. So far partnership agreements are established with Children Legal Protection Center of Federal Supreme Court, Ethiopian Lawyers Association, Hawassa University, Ambo University, and Adama University.
Preparation of Service Guideline and Paralegals’ Training Manual
To enhance the quality and integrity of the legal aid service provided, the Project has its own service guideline that guide the provision of service to its beneficiaries. The Project is guided by the following principles in the provision of its service:
- Free: Services are provided free of charge to the beneficiaries,
- Confidentiality: Client’s information shall not be disclosed to third party without his/her consent,
- Impartiality: there shall not be discrimination in deciding to whom the service shall be provided except on property status and paralegals shall not be influenced by their own views and prejudices in rendering the service,
- Independence: the provision of advice and information is based on the law and policies of Ethiopia and free from government, and
- Empowering: the Project aims at empowering people by giving them the information and advice they need to claim their rights.
In addition to the service provision guideline, the Project also has paralegal training manuals that are used as training kit as well as hand book for paralegals. The training manuals are revised from time to time to make them up-to-date with current legislation and case law.
Training of paralegals
The Project also engages in training pool of paralegals. The project uses a cascade model of training: training a group of people as trainers who then take responsibility for training the paralegals. The training of trainers draws from academic staff, practitioners and judges. The trainee paralegals are usually drawn from law schools, community members, community organizations, local administration, and children and women’s affairs offices.
C. Research and publication
Another important component of the Project activity is research and publication on access to justice issues and issues specifically related to the human rights of the section of the society that the project serves. The Project conducts and coordinates research activities and disseminates same upon publication.
D. Training on Human Rights
The Project envisages building the capacity of those institutions that are engaged in implementation of law to enhance the enforcement of rights that are recognized in the Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by Ethiopia. To realize this, the Project has set out to provide two tailor made human rights trainings annually to enhance the enforcement of the human rights of the poor and vulnerable segments of the society.
E. Facilitating experience sharing and capacity building
With a view to contributing to the betterment of legal aid service provision across the country, the Project is working to facilitate experience sharing among legal aid provides and the formation of national network of legal aid providers. It has also provided training aiming at improving the capacity of legal aid providers.
Monitoring and Evaluation of Project Activity
In order to ensure that quality of service is maintained and progress is being made according to the plans and purposes of the Project, monitoring and checking mechanisms are integrated into the project activity. The Project envisages regular follow-up of paralegals’ activities, Monitoring visit by Project Manager, report writing by legal aid center managers, Local Advisory Committee (LAC) meetings and Project Advisory Committee (PAC) meetings to evaluate performance of the project at the local and macro level, and at the end of the project year, external evaluation of project performance.