On March 26, the Coordination Center for Legal Aid Provision of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine presented at an online event a report on the results of its work in the protection of citizens’ rights, legal education, development of modern services, response to clients’ legal problems and ways to solve them through providing free legal aid (FLA) in 2020.
The event and discussion were attended by Natalia Petrova, Deputy Chief of Party of the USAID New Justice Program. Valeria Kolomiets, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine; Andriy Kostin, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy; Alexander Baranov, acting Director of the Coordination Center for Legal Aid Provision; Olena Lytvynenko, Deputy Head of the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine; Ivan Honcharuk, Rule of Law and Access to Justice Specialist, United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, made presentations during the event.
Free legal aid is an important element of a fair and efficient justice system, as an important guarantee of protecting human rights and the rule of law. The state provides it under the Law of Ukraine “On Free Legal Aid.”
The presented report states that 2020 was a year of important changes in FLA, as the pandemic made it necessary to adjust to new challenges quickly. When presenting the report, Oleksandr Baranov said that in 2020 more than 510,000 citizens received primary legal aid (legal advice, clarification, preparation of complaints and documents of a non-procedural nature), and more than 87,000 citizens received secondary legal aid (protection, representation of interests in the court, preparation of procedural documents). Besides, almost 280,000 calls to the FLA contact center were processed. In 2020, the whistleblowers and people claiming the stateless person status received the right to secondary legal aid; the pilot project on restorative justice for minors was expanded to the entire territory of Ukraine; a mobile application “Free Legal Aid” was developed.
During her speech, Ms. Natalia Petrova spoke about the grant support for the Innovation for Free Legal Aid Project (#InnovateLegalAid), which the Legal Innovations NGO implements to train FLA specialists in the basics of innovation management. By introducing innovative approaches in the FLA system, this project aims to help solve problems of access to justice and expand access to quality legal services. In parallel with the FLA state program, the USAID New Justice Program supported the establishment of the first six Community Justice Centers in Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv regions with the involvement of Ukrainian NGOs. These centers provide legal assistance within communities and help to overcome barriers between citizens, communities, and institutions in the justice sector.
Nowadays, an approach to the development of a justice system that would be focused on meeting lthe egal needs of a person is becoming widespread. I hope that this approach will be implemented in the FLA system. According to the 2019 publication of the report of the World Justice Project «Global understanding of access to justice», more than a third of Ukrainians who had legal problems faced significant difficulties in solving them. It is known that the national FLA program works with those who apply to it, but according to a study by the International Renaissance Foundation, about 32% of Ukrainians admitted that having legal problems, did not dare to seek solutions because of mistrust and fear of failure. Therefore, it is important to understand how to help such citizens and how to prevent systemic legal problems in communities, how to involve the private sector (mediators, legal business) in the implementation of social projects to help those who for some reason cannot access justice. This problem, in particular, can be solved through closer cooperation with local communities,” said Ms. Petrova.
At the end of the meeting, Valeria Kolomiets, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine, thanked all the partners for their support and suggestions for improving the FLA system and expressed hope that in 2021 the quality of legal services in the FLA system will improve and a larger number of citizens will be able to receive such services.