Expanding Free Legal Aid Services to Women and Men in Albania
UNDP defines access to justice as “the ability of people, particularly those belonging to poor and disadvantaged groups, to seek and obtain a remedy through formal and informal justice systems, in accordance with human rights principles and standards”.
The universal importance of access to justice was reflected in the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals. The new agenda promotes sustainable development of countries that are based on peace, just and inclusive societies, respect for human rights, the rule of law and effective and accountable institutions. The goal and the entire SDG agenda embrace the core elements of a social contract between state and society as they seek to ensure a match between people’s expectations of what the state and other actors will deliver and the institutional capacity available within the state and other actors to meet those expectations.
Expanding Free Legal Aid Services to Women and Men in Albania (EFLAS) is a response to Government of Albania’s efforts toward reforming its justice system and align its legal and policy framework with EU laws and standards. It also is in full alignment with UNDP’s mandate which is firmly rooted in attaining the Global Sustainable Goals (SDGs), which form the basis of United Nations Sustainable Development Country Framework (UNSDCF) 2022-2026 and the UNDP Country Program Document (CPD) 2022-2026.
Goal 16 in particular provides new and unprecedented space for strengthening the rule of law, justice, and security and promoting human rights, and commits Member States to: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” The targets for Goal 16, more specifically Target 16.3 obliges states to “Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.” Additionally, Goal 10 commits to “reduce inequality within and among countries” and eliminate discrimination in laws, policies and practices. Furthermore, Goal 5 promotes gender equality and the need for empowerment of all women and girls given their disadvantaged roles and discrimination in many societies.
Ministry of Justice as the driver of the country’s justice reform is the lead national partner of EFLAS Project. Other key project partners are the People’s Advocate, the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and civil society organizations. EFLAS Project is funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) since September 2019 and will extend its contribution till October 2024 with a budget of 2 million EUR.
In June 2014, Albania received EU candidacy status and adopted a road map for approximation with EU laws and standards. The drive for European integration is a main driver of reform in the country and a shared political priority. 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. Governance reforms are at the heart of the EU accession process and have been prioritized as key to addressing Albania’s socio-economic challenges. Major investments have therefore been made by the GoA in reforming the public administration and judiciary, and in efforts to reduce corruption, strengthen the rule of law, and rationalize relations between central and sub-national state bodies. Delivery of quality and inclusive public services at local level, is one of the many important interventions the GoA is intensively working on.
Albania’s vision of sustainable development is for EU accession, sustainable economic growth, and more inclusive prosperity. European integration is a main driver of reforms in the country and a shared political and public priority. Accession negotiations have been conditional upon the reform of the judiciary and public administration, and greater efforts to combat corruption and (transboundary) organized crime.
In the context of the justice reform, as a key requirement for EU accession, in June 2018, a new Law on State Guaranteed Legal Aid was adopted and entered into force with the technical support of UNDP in partnership with EURALIUS project. State Guaranteed Legal Aid enables the legal environment for an unhindered and equal access to justice for women and men in need. The approval of the full package of legal acts and bylaws by August 2020 provides the fundaments for responsible bodies to adequately respond to the increased demand for free legal aid services to the most vulnerable populations. As a result, a Free Legal Aid (FLA) Directorate of the Ministry of Justice was established in early 2020 to organize and oversee a broadened set of primary and secondary FLA providers. In addition, the law foresees a new branch of the civil service, major involvement of NGO legal aid service providers, as well as pro bono lawyers certified jointly with the National Chamber of Albanian Advocates that would provide primary and secondary FLA services.
Major Achievements 2019-2022
- Strengthening legal and policy framework for adequate Free Legal Aid law implementation and monitoring of free legal aid service provision.
- Direct support to the Free Legal Aid Directorate at MoJ to advance the professional capacities of jurists and lawyers of the free legal aid scheme.
- Further expanded FLA Services in 12 regions of Albania, namely in Durres, Fier, Pogradec, Dibra, Shkodra, Lezha, Gjirokastra, Vlora, Elbasan, Berat, Kukes and Korça.
- Supported 12 FLA centers in delivering primary FLA services to 6908 individuals in need of whom 3656 women and girls. The top cases demanding free legal aid have been divorce, protection orders, birth registrations, alimony benefits, pension benefits, work compensation, immigration criminal law, social benefits, inheritance cases, and property rights from which a considerable number of women and girls have benefited.
- Strengthened partnership between National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and CSOs in reaching out to remote communities and vulnerable women, men, girls, and boys and empowering them with information for redressing their rights.
- Partnership with 16 specialized NGOs further strengthened in provision of primary and secondary free legal aid services to the most vulnerable women and men in the country, as well as legal awareness and education, street law initiatives, and FLA mobile services in 36 municipalities and their administrative units. Special focus on reaching out to women and girls, GB&DV victims, members of the Roma and Egyptian community, LGBTI+ community, PwDs, and elderly people.
- Fostering networking among specialized NGOs and local Free Legal Aid service providers to increase vulnerable groups’ awareness and legal knowledge on domestic laws, HRs, and how to access these rights, which will ultimately improve access to justice for vulnerable individuals.
- Up to the present 5472 vulnerable citizens have been reached with legal information on their rights and legal aid and how to access legal aid and enjoy their legal entitlements.
- Partnership with the Chamber of Advocates of Albania established aiming at increasing the professional capacities of advocates that provide free court representation to women and men coming from the vulnerable categories pursuant to the Free Legal Aid Law.
- Strengthening capacities of Free Legal Aid operators: 202 advocates, 9 magistrates, and 41 jurists, public officials trained on Free Legal Aid based on 2 specific training modules on Free Legal Aid service developed in partnership with Free Legal Aid Directorate of the Ministry of Justice, the Albanian School of Public Administration and the Chamber of Advocates of Albania. A specific focus on increasing the professional capacities of Free Legal Aid providers was given to issues related to gender-based discrimination and women clients’ needs.
Build solid foundations for the new Free Legal Aid (FLA) system established in Albania through:
- Support to FLA Management and Oversight Structures for Efficient Implementation of the FLA Framework and System overall.
- Consolidation and scale-up of free legal aid services to ensure most vulnerable populations’ unhindered and equitable access to free legal aid.
- Strengthening and expanding the network of partners/service providers to boost outreach of vulnerable communities with information and services.
- Support FLA management institutions and service providers to respond to gender-based discrimination and the needs of the clients in alignment with the international standards.
"Expanding Free Legal Aid Services to Women and Men in Albania" Project supported 10 Free Legal Aid centers in delivering primary Free Legal Aid services to more than 4217 individuals in need.
Up to present 5440 vulnerable citizens have been reached with legal information on their rights and how to access legal aid and enjoy their legal entitlements.
Further expanded Free Legal Aid Services in 10 regions of Albania, namely in Durres, Fier, Pogradec, Dibra, Shkodra, Lezha, Gjirokastra, Vlora, Elbasan and Berat.
Partnership with 10 specialized NGOs further strengthened in provision of primary and secondary free legal aid services to the most vulnerable women and men in the country.
100 advocates trained on secondary Free Legal Aid and 24 public officials trained on primary Free Legal Aid.
24 public officials trained on primary Free Legal Aid based on 2 specific training modules on Free Legal Aid service.
United Nations Development Programme
Austrian Development Agency
UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PRO
DELIVERY IN PREVIOUS YEARS