On 16 and 17 February, with the support of the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project and the International Renaissance Foundation, the capital hosted a constituent meeting between the winning organizations of the “Integration of Primary and Secondary Legal Aid at the Level of Territorial Communities” grant competition.
The meeting was attended by the representatives of 36 non-governmental organizations from 20 regions of Ukraine which won the grant competition, as well as integrators of the local FSLA centers which will be involved in the implementation of the projects.
The main purpose of the meeting was to exchange ideas on strengthening the legal capacity of territorial communities and elaborating joint practical steps in this direction among all legal aid providers at the local level, bodies of local self-government and local authorities.
Oksana Kikot, Project Manager of the QALA project, noted that the Project was primarily aimed at supporting the free legal aid system in Ukraine, but a separate and very important its component involved the support of public initiatives and projects of non-governmental organizations: “For us, integration means cooperation between three main stakeholders – NGOs, the LA system represented by local FSLA centers and local self-government authorities. In the Project, we are convinced that it is the NGOs that are the key link providing people with access to justice and legal aid in particular“.
Roman Romanov, director of the Human Rights and Justice program initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation, said in his opening speech: “It is you who can show what decentralization should be like, what it should involve and what potential and resources the communities have in order to solve the issues of local importance on their own, and what kind of aid is needed to solve them“.
“The legal aid system, which appeared three years ago, has gained today a significant level of public trust, support of the Government and our foreign partners. Today, we have unique opportunities to cooperate with the local community by scaling up the state FSLA centers. At present, the system’s network involves 100 local centers, but in the coming months it is planned expand it with more than 400 access points, a legal aid bureau, which provides real opportunities for people to exercise their rights directly at the place where they live“, emphasized Andrii Vyshnevskyi, Director of the Coordination Center for Legal Aid Provision.
Andrii Vyshnevskyi called the enhancing of the legal capacity of territorial communities the main goal of the joint work of the participants in the processes of integration at the level of territorial communities, from informing people about their right, convincing them that this right can be realized, and the creation of institutional capacity for the realization of this right.
Myroslav Lavrinok, First Deputy Director of the Coordination Center, dwelled upon analysis of the institutional development of the legal aid system, the functioning of the integrators network, the initiatives of the Coordination Center on facilitating access to free legal aid and the impact of the LA system in the context of judicial reform.
Directors of the local FSLA centers Vasyl Kovalchuk (Kovel) and Maksym Ilchyshyn (Kamyanets-Podilskyi) shared with the workshop participants the existing experience of cooperation of local centers with NGOs in the regions.
As part of the work in groups moderated by Ivanna Ibragimova, the QALA Project’s Team Leader, the participants of the event collectively answered the questions: “For whom do we work? What do we do? Who are our partners? and What are their roles? How will the community benefit from the implementation of projects?“
In the afternoon, the participants of the meeting discussed tools of influence and role enhancement through joint efforts and integration from a number of experts. Thus, Olena Matviichuk, who represented Volyn Regional NGO “Legal Aid Center”, spoke on the development, promotion and adoption of targeted local legal aid programs; Maksym Ilchyshyn, director of Kamyanets-Podilskyi local center talked about the activity forms of the centers and other legal aid entities established or operating with the support of local self-government authorities; Director of the Information Resource Center “Legal Space” Natalia Bimbiraite and representative of the NGO “Center for Legal Information” in the city of Lviv Zoriana Khrystyna told the participants about the operation and services of “Legal Space” portal as well as the opportunities for cooperation with the portal.
Olga Halchenko, Coordinator of the Human Rights and Justice program of the International Renaissance Foundation and Alina Hladka, regional coordinator/administrator of the grant fund of the QALA Project, told the participants about information and communication policy as well as reporting within the framework of the project implementation.
Next day, the meeting participants worked in groups where they exchanged experiences and ideas on the integration of legal aid at the level of territorial communities.
It should be recalled that the competition of projects on integration of primary and secondary free legal aid was taking place during October-November of last year. Its objective is to facilitate the integration of primary and secondary legal aid at the territorial community level by establishing and expanding cooperation between local centers, non-governmental organizations, bodies of local self-government and local authorities. Upon its results, the competition commission recommended that 36 grant projects from 20 regions of Ukraine be supported.
The key target audiences of projects include the ATO participants, internally displaced persons, orphaned children and children deprived of parental care, pensioners/elderly people, people with disabilities, national minorities, residents of remote rural communities, etc.