Strengthening Grassroots Justice: A Collaborative Initiative to Expand and Empower Village Courts Across Bangladesh
LGD, EU, UNDP launch Activating Village Courts Phase III to ensure local justice
October 12, 2023
The "Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh Phase III" project, a joint endeavour by the Local Government Division (LGD), the European Union (EU), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was officially inaugurated today (12 October) at a hotel in Dhaka to further empower and expand the essential Village Court system, ensuring local justice for all.
The launch event was graced by Md Tazul Islam MP, Minister of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, who presided as the chief guest. Charles Whiteley, the EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, and Stefan Liller, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh, were present as special guests.
Speaking at the event, Minister Md Tazul Islam emphasised the government's commitment to ensuring justice at the grassroots level, stating, "Our government is committed to assisting in decreasing litigation and providing justice to rural residents by strengthening the village court system. We are also working to decentralizing resources and establish people-oriented local governments to ensure better service for all."
EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley hailed the Village Court system as a vital instrument for accessible and efficient justice in rural areas, noting that it has greatly improved access to legal services for the poor and marginalised. He also stressed the system's role in reducing the backlog of cases in the formal court system.
The "Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh Phase III" project builds upon the successes of its predecessors, underscoring the growing demand for village court services throughout Bangladesh. Increased funding from the Bangladesh government, in partnership with the EU and UNDP, reflects the nation's commitment to fulfilling the need for accessible justice.
The third phase of the project aims to create sustainable village court systems, taking into account the input of central and local stakeholders. Notable among the new initiatives is the digitalisation of the monitoring and reporting systems for Village Court cases. This innovation will enable real-time data updates and provide access to multiple stakeholders at local and central levels, facilitating better service supervision and case progress tracking.
Stefan Liller, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh, said, "UNDP's commitment to equitable access to justice for all is echoed on a global scale. Promoting inclusive access to justice is a fundamental building block for achieving sustainable development and fostering a world where all individuals can exercise their rights without discrimination. Our collaborative efforts to advance access to justice in Bangladesh began in 2009. The pilot phase of Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh was built on a vision by the government of alternative dispute resolution and access to justice at the local level.”
“Its success became a call for expansion, leading to Phase II in 2016. Today, as we launch Phase III, our determination is renewed. Our goal is to activate and maintain Village Courts in 4,457 Union Parishads across Bangladesh, ensuring that the voices of the marginalised are not just heard, but also echoed,” said Stefan.
The "Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh Phase III" project represents a significant stride towards delivering justice at the doorstep of vulnerable populations, reducing court expenses, and transforming Union Parishads into active service providers.
Among others, Muhammad Ibrahim, Secretary, LGD, Mohammed Nora Alam Siddique, Joint Secretary, LGD, and National Project Director; and Bibhash Chakraborty, National Project Coordinator, also spoke. Farzana Mannan, Joint Secretary, LGD moderated an open discussion.
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