On 6-8 December 2016, with the support of the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project a working meeting of the management of the legal aid system was held to discuss the issues of medium-term activity planning. Directors of regional and local FSLA centres and the team of the Coordination Center for Legal Aid Provision took part in the event.
Directors of regional and local centres analysed achievements and challenges in the system operation, including with regard to ensuring access to the FSLA, integration of the primary and secondary legal aid at the territorial community level, which has become possible not just through the establishment of cooperation with other public organizations, service providers, but also thanks to the creation of the legal aid bureaus. Participants also discussed the matters of establishing cooperation between local and regional centres, as well as developing the system institutional capacities. After the Coordination Center Director Andrii Vyshnevskyi presented his vision of the system development, its key priority areas in 2017, the meeting participants continued working in groups, analysing required changes, possibilities, risks, and main steps for operation in priority areas.
Two groups focused on the issue of switching the LA system from providing legal aid to certain individuals to strengthening legal capacities and legal empowerment of territorial communities both using internal resources of the system, and involving external partners and resources. At the same time, they discussed matters of holding awareness raising events for communities and societies; accounting for regional/local LA programmes and other projects within the regional LA plans, developing a network of LA partners and independent providers; expanding access to LA, including by ensuring functioning of remote LA access points and availability of mobile consultations centres, as well as ensuring the appropriate quality of services provided to the system clients.
One of the priorities that participants worked on was the establishment of an efficient system of legal knowledge management and the development of human resources of the legal community and LA partner networks, which, among other things, included the creation and development of inter-regional resource and communicative platforms, information platform for legal consultations. One of the groups discussed matters of building a comprehensive information and analytical system for ensuring LA provision and implementation of other state-of-the-art information technologies that would enable automation, and thus simplification of data collection and information exchange processes, as well as contribute to the development of innovative forms used for access to the LA. Other groups analysed decentralization of the system of LA in civil and administrative cases, its provision to victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings, and gradual switch from the model of engaging ex officio lawyers to the model of offices for public defence in criminal proceedings.
Each group presented its achievements at the joint meeting on the third day of the event where other participants could ask questions, make comments and suggestions. Meeting participants noted the need to keep joining efforts, including at the regional level, in order to strengthen the impact of the system activities with a focus on active work in the communities. All working groups emphasized the importance of studying the needs, which included both the study of the needs of people, societies, and communities, and the need to train and develop system staff, as well as a thorough analysis and estimation of needs in terms of resource support, which would facilitate justification and purposefulness of actions. The importance of the development of various experience and information exchange forms was also discussed, including mentoring, while monitoring and assessment may be a valuable mechanism facilitating the training and development. It is also essential to determine and understand not just the importance of the expected results of the system operation in general and the centres in particular, but also that of clear performance indicators, including understanding the methods and reasons of data collection, analysis, etc.
Discussion results will be taken into account when planning the operation of the legal aid system for 2017.
This is the third meeting of the LA system management, supported by the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project designed to develop human potential of the LA system, facilitate strategic planning of centre activities, capacities for monitoring and analysis of the system operation, as well as communication with all stakeholders.