Build solid foundations for the new Free Legal Aid (FLA) system established in Albania
To contribute to the achievement of the above overall goal, the project will work towards achieving the following outcomes:
1: Legal aid management institutions and service providers have the capacity to implement the FLA legislation in support vulnerable women and men.
2: FLA Department in Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have core capacities for setting up and piloting a FLA quality monitoring scheme.
3: Network established, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) successfully capacitated to deliver services inselected areas.
Strategic approach for sustainable results
• Institutional solutions: Supports the development of system solutions for better administration, organization, oversight and delivery of unhindered and equal FLA services for vulnerable women and men
• Central and Local level: Addresses capacity gaps and strengthen networking at central and local levels of state/non-state/ judiciary actors improving the delivery, addressing bottlenecks and keeping the responsible institutions for FLA service provision accountable
• Partnerships: Enhance inter-institutional coordination and build strategic partnerships with the NGOs/FLA providers, District Courts, LGUs, Academia, local bar associations, local partners
• Targets: Roma and Egyptians, survivors of gender based and domestic violence, persons with disabilities and vulnerable youth and elderly.
• Ownership: Support mandated institutional structures and FLA providers in making services sustainable reaching out to the most vulnerable women and men through institutional system solutions and delivery.
What have we achieved so far?
Despite the November 2019 earthquake hitting hard on Albania and COVID-19 emergency situation with its restriction measures, EFLAS project remained focused on its planned activities, but at the same time flexible in its approach to adapt and respond to the new situation. The November 2019 earthquake that hit Albania and later the unprecedented COVID-19 situation impacted considerably marginalised women, girls, men and boys all over the country. The increasing demand for undisruptive, equal and unhindered free legal aid services for vulnerable women and girls, members of Roma and Egyptians communities, people with low or no income, elderly persons, and persons with disabilities were noticed during the post-earthquake and during COVID-19 pandemic. In both cases, UNDP supported FLA centers that were operational in partnership with CSOs, MoJ and judicial authorities developed a plan to adjust tools and means of communicating services through online, telephone and social media platforms. Concrete results are achieved mainly focusing on:
· The MoJ FLA Directorate strengthened with technical expertise for developing a quality monitoring scheme in support of effective FLA law implementation and quality FLA services. More particularly, technical support is being provided to develop coordination and communication protocols among FLA service providers, for both primary and secondary legal aid, and a case flow management scheme enabling following up cases and statistical reporting.
· Improved capacities of the MoJ FLA Directorate and local FLA Centers staff in order to ensure efficient implementation of the FLA legal framework and expanding of equal and quality FLA services in the country.
· Four operational FLA centers: Three FLA Centers were revitalized in Durres, Fier and Lezha based on a pilot experience UNDP had during 2017-2018. Pogradec FLA Center recently joined with its primary FLA services to marginalized citizens.
· Primary and secondary FLA services were provided to all vulnerable women, girls, men and boys in these judiciary regions in an undisruptive, inclusive and equal manner even during COVID-19 lockdown. From the start of the project up to October 2020, 708 individuals in need have benefited from free legal aid services. Out of these, 456 were vulnerable women and girls, who have benefited free legal aid in the FLA centers of Lezha, Durres and Fier. A keen focus was given to women and girls victims of domestic violence or other gender-based violence, Roma and Egyptian, women with disabilities, and elderly women. The top cases demanding free legal aid have been divorce, protection orders, birth registrations, alimony benefits, pension benefits, labour disputes, immigration criminal law, social benefits, inheritance cases and property disputes from which a considerable number of women and girls have benefited.
· Established partnership between National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and CSOs in reaching out to remote communities and vulnerable women, men, girls and boys and empower them with information for redressing their rights. UNDP continued to support the People’s Advocate (PA) in providing remedies and upholding the human rights standards and gender considerations through development and implementation of a joint UNDP-PA work plan to support this institution in (i) strengthening the dialogue with the public administration in ensuring implementation of the PA’s recommendations; (ii) reaching out to vulnerable communities, with a keen focus on women, PWDs, Roma/Egyptians, LGBTI to encourage their use of the PA in seeking redress for violations of human rights of women and men; and (iii) strengthening policy framework in fighting all forms of harassment and sexual harassment in the public administration.
· Similarly, UNDP has been supporting CPD to maximize impact of CPD’s casework decisions to strengthen best practices in jurisprudence regarding non-discrimination and equality before the law; and reach out to vulnerable communities to encourage their use of the CPD’s mandate in seeking redress for violations of human rights, and strengthening legal framework in fighting all forms of discrimination and inequality in accessing basic services.
· Increased capacities of local state and CSO FLA service providers for ensuring provision of FLA services to persons in need as per the FLA Law and networking between them expanded. A special focus has been given to establishing a network among experienced NGOs and grassroot NGOs/local offices of young lawyers in Fier, Lezha and Durres. This network aims at strengthening local partners, as free legal aid providers, mentoring them in their FLA services to most vulnerable citizens. Furthermore, the network serves as a solid platform for increasing accountability towards legally responsible state, judiciary bodies trusted with the administration of the FLA service provisions.
· To strengthen institutional and capacities of local grass root organization and CSOs 4 other CSOs were able to join the project with the aim to further empower NHRIs in safeguarding human rights, freedoms and lawful interests through strengthening collaboration with NGOs delivering legal and social services and enabling them to play their role as interlocutors of authorities at central and at local level fostering policy dialogue on strengthening the rule of law, human rights and access to justice. These 4 CSOs will be implementing interventions in areas with operational FLA centers like in Pogradec, Durres, Fier, Shkodra, Gjirokastra (planned to be established soon) and in other areas where there are no such centers. The aim is to inform and empower vulnerable girls and women victims of gender-based violence, children, youth, women and men with disabilities, elderly, etc., on their rights and how to realize these rights through accessing at local level legal aid and other available services as per the domestic legislation. In addition, the goal of the interventions is to ensure better coverage, accessibility and public outreach, raise awareness on HRs and discrimination issues and facilitate the lodging, as well as an effective response to violations of HRs and discrimination complaints; and strengthen coordination and referral among NHRIs, services providers and the community in areas where there are not yet established FLA centres.
· Approximately 76 junior lawyers, local service providers and NGOs representatives from Lezha, Durres and Fier were engaged through capacity building activities, street law and larger awareness raising public campaigns on FLA law and its provisions and how vulnerable populations benefit from it. A specific focus in increasing professional capacities of FLA providers was given to issues related to gender-based discrimination and women clients’ needs.
1 million EUR – 891 089 EUR (Austrian Development Agency funds) and 100 000 EUR (UNDP funds)
MoJ, main partner, NGOs FLA providers, District Courts, LGUs, other local FLA providers, CPD and PA, National/Local Chamber of Lawyers and their local offices, EURALIUS, Open Society Foundation in Albania
Duration: 3 years
October 2019- September 2022