Ukrainian Experience of Community Justice Centers as an Example of Successful Interaction between Justice Sector and Communities

On May 27, 2021, Chief of Party of the USAID New Justice Program David Vaughn shared the Ukrainian experience of establishing Community Justice Centers (CJC) with the international community during an online meeting of the Coalition on Justice of the international initiative Open Government Partnership.

The international initiative Open Government Partnership was launched in 2011 and aims to bring together governments, civil society, business, and international organizations to create positive changes in citizens’ lives. Member-countries jointly with civil society develop two-year action plans which follow such commitments as public information access, civic participation, public accountability as well as technology and innovations for transparency. The OGP has grown to 78 countries, 76 local governments, and several thousands of civil society organizations.

During the online meeting, experts and practitioners from Kenya, Indonesia, and Ukraine informed the participants about the implementation of a human-centered approach to justice in their countries. Besides the experience of Ukrainian community justice centers, participants discussed the use of public counselors’ services and the application of alternative dispute resolution.

The establishment of CJCs has subsequently increased access to justice, enhanced satisfaction with outcomes of legal disputes, and improved court operations, while also providing a platform for public participation in reforming justice sector institutions at the local level and solving community justice issues. In addition, CJCs helped to increase public trust and confidence in the judiciary,” shared Ukrainian experience David Vaughn.

Mr. Vaughn informed that the idea of establishing CJCs in Ukraine arose long ago when court user satisfaction surveys were launched with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). These surveys revealed how important the provision of high-quality court services at the level of community is and how courts can cooperate with civil society organizations to improve their operations.

Several models of establishing CJCs in Ukraine were considered. The first model is an independent non-for-profit charitable organization established at or annexed to a court or any other justice sector or local government institution as in Singapore. The second model – CJC as a long-term program of civil society organization that concentrates on justice issues, for example, as run in New York. And third      model – CJC as a community-based governmental entity, such as Casas de Justicia (Justice Houses) in Colombia.

As of today, CJCs in Ukraine have provided legal aid to over 7,500 persons including 2,700 low-income individuals with each CJC serving the justice needs of 150 to 200 visitors per month using various methods from in-person to virtual consultations using online platforms, which became invaluable tools throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

At the meeting, participants also discussed the issues of cooperation between governmental and non-governmental organizations to ensure the human-centered approach to addressing legal issues of citizens and alternative ways of dispute resolution which would be based on and consider cultural aspects of each country.