What is the project about?
Albania has committed to strengthening the rule of law and human rights through its ratification of international and regional treaties and its adherence to the 2030 development agenda. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights recognize equality before the law and before the courts and rights to a fair trial, to free legal assistance in criminal matters, to liberty and security of the person and to property as well as freedom from discrimination, protection of which are key elements of strengthening the rule of law. Since justice sector reform is among the key political criteria for EU accession, UNDP is supporting legislative, judicial and law enforcement bodies ensure inclusive and equitable service delivery systems with a special focus on underserved populations and women.
The UNDP Access to Justice Project (A2J) aims at injecting an access to justice approach (including with project implementation at local level) into the broader justice sector reform currently underway in Albania, which focuses mainly on legislative reform and institutional reforms. It will strengthen people’s access to justice by supporting the development of the free legal aid system and promoting legal awareness and empowerment.
The project works with a high level public authorities such as the MoJ, the network of certified lawyers, the Prosecutor’s Office, related ministries, other actors in the civil and criminal justice sectors, and civil society organizations.
A2J project serves to individuals in difficult economic situation in urban and rural areas that cannot afford to pay for legal services and marginalized communities including victims of gender-based violence/domestic violence, Roma and Egyptian communities, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTI community and elderly persons.
The project implementation is composed on two outputs:
Output 1: State bodies and justice sector actors are able to provide better access to justice in compliance with international commitments and standards and to promote and protect the rights of disadvantaged groups and vulnerable segments of the population.
Output 2: Vulnerable groups targeted by the project, including rural women, children and youth at risk, men and women from minorities and people with disabilities know and increasingly exercise their rights to justice, especially in the selected municipalities of the Republic of Albania.
What have we accomplished so far:
UNDP A2J project has implemented a number of strategic interventions, including providing support to national authorities for the improvement of the legal aid legislation; conducting an assessment of the situation related to access to justice, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups; as well as identifying potential obstacles in this areas and possible solutions, to be communicated to policy decision makers. (Output 1)
In addition, the project assisted the improvement of free legal aid mechanisms through: (i) piloting free legal services in four districts in Albania; ii) informing marginalized communities and individuals groups about how to access legal aid services; and iii) and supporting coordination among service providers in
Implemented interventions under Output 1:
- Conducted the first Access to Justice Survey in Albania. According to the survey, consisting of a questionnaire administered to 1758 persons (as well as interviews and focus groups), almost half of the population has had legal problems in the last five years, and that these have largely gone unresolved due to a lack of legal awareness in society and the underperformance of justice sector institutions. This is particularly true for members of disadvantaged groups, including the poor, those with a low level of formal education, the Roma, members of the LGBTI community, victims of domestic violence and others. Nonetheless, with most disputes being inexpensive to resolve, the moderately fair outcomes produced by courts and recent improvements to the law, the Albanian population has reason to hope that access to justice can be increased in the future to meet its needs.
- Improvement of the newly approved Free Legal Aid law (FLA) and provided technical expertise in drafting the bylaws as per the requirements of the FLA l
- Technical support provided to strengthen the Albanian Authority on Access to Information on the former State Security Service (the Authority
i) Technical assistance to support for the new Authority in the development of the first strategic plan for the period 2017-2020. The Strategic plan defines clearly the context in which the Authority will operate, provides a roadmap for navigating its complex goals and objectives, sets out clear and measurable tasks for the Authority functioning in the next 4 years; identifies a partnership strategy with national and international organizations as well as civil society organizations.
ii) Organized a two-day retreat that brought together authority staff, public officials of related institutions. Representatives from international organizations and independent experts, civil society organizations and research institutions working to address the legacy of the communist dictatorship in the country. This event provided the ground for identifying main priorities and the development of the first Four Year Strategic Document that will serve as a foundational document for the work of the Authority going forward.
iii) UNDP is also supporting the Authority in strengthening its internal capacities in order to be able to perform its functions as well as a) to increase its outreach to the public and interest groups; b) advocacy and institution branding; c) preparation of architectural concept/design for the rehabilitation of Authority’s new premises.
Under the project “Remembrance to Heal and Prevent”, specific support is provided to the Authority’s work on the documentation of the crimes of communism, including contributing to justice through the established patterns of remembrance aiming at shedding light on past crimes; supporting the process of identifying and recovering the remains of Sigurimi victims; and facilitating public dialogue on reconciliation, rehabilitation, and transitional justice. Concretely the project has contributed so far in:
- Identified and collected information, evidence (archival evidence) and oral testimonies of survivors and their families that were interned in internment camps.
- Organized three open days in three Universities of the country, respectively Shkodra, Durres and Korca, to expand the understanding of the Communist past in Albania. Survived communist victims and/or their affected families has been involved as resource persons during these open days. Around 300 students, lecturers, survived communist victims and their affected families were present during the open days.
- Developed a communication platform “Even Walls have Ears” which aimed to increase awareness on the past communist crimes and encourage dialogue between universities, academics, local communities, survivors of the past communist crimes in Albania, media and public in general. "Even walls have ears" culminated with an artistic installation and followed with a collection of personal stories of survivors of dictatorship or their families. The platform was presented in six cities of Albania in the main squares of six cities, Tirana, Shkodra, Berat, Korça, Tepelena and Gjirokastra and over 1500 participants attended the artistic installation.
- Involved civil society and researchers from Academia and victims who have survived from detention and labor camps during communism to dialogue for the conceptualization of the first National Labor Camp Memorial in Tepelena. Through this remembrance place, the project aims to establish a pattern for all forced labor camps in Albania, which will serve for public reflection.
- Supported Tepelena Memorial Museum Day activity, where over 200 survivors of communist crimes participated at the scientific symposium organized that day, on among other, the historical and legal framework of the forced labour and the project design for the Children’s Memorial Place in Tepelena’s Forced Labor Camp.
- Developed evidence-based publications on oral testimonies to build oral history centered around victims of communist crimes which add value to the archival files for these victims.
- Build a scientific approach and narrative around the concept and impact of forced labor camps during totalitarian regime through research work presented in the first ever international scientific conference “Outcast from the power-The deportation system and the use of forced labor in Albania 1945-1990”.
Implemented interventions under Output 2:
- UNDP support to Civil Society Organization’s (CSOs) legal aid providers resulted in four pilot free legal aid centers in district courts premises in Tirana, Durres, Fier and Lezha. These centers offer primary legal aid services, including information on the legal system in the country, normative acts in force, rights and obligations of legal entities, legal counselling on specific cases, as well as provision of assistance in the drafting of legal documents. Secondary legal aid such as representation in civil and administrative proceedings and representation before State administrative bodies may be provided in some specific cases. In parallel, awareness raising activities to increase knowledge of citizens, in particular marginalized communities, on the provision of legal aid are organized in the four pilot areas.
- UNDP supported the establishment of a network of free legal aid providers (NGOs), which offered legal services in the selected districts. Each of these centers had an average of 33 cases per month handled: i) divorce and child custody cases; ii) pension benefits cases; iii) protection orders and other issues related to DV victims.
The Ministry of Justice is the key partner for UNDP in the A2J initiative. Taking into consideration the existing challenges and the enormous needs in the justice sector as well as the ambitious objectives of the project, UNDP is working in close collaboration with Parliament, the Albanian Authority on Access to Information on the former State Security Service, pilot District Courts in Fier, Durres, Lezha and Tirana, CSOs, other development partners Equality Bodies, Local Government Units, Euralius, USAID, OSCE, Academia and media.
Who Finances it:
Funded through UN Catalytic Fund, BPPS funding windows, UNDP Albania and Italian Embassy