A series of national consultations has begun in Ukraine for the purpose of implementing the people-centered approach to justice. This approach is based on people needs and aims to solve the most critical problems of access to justice faced by individuals. People-centered justice is intended to ensure equal access to justice for all, regardless of income levels, gender, age, race, ethnic group, and other differences between people. A need in people-centered justice gets stronger under current conditions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
The USAID New Justice Program, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, Legal Development Network, and Ukrainian Access to Justice School of Practice initiated the national consultations engaging all the interested to familiarize them with the concept of people-centered approach to justice and to identify ways to apply it in Ukraine. Participants in the initial event included representatives from government authorities, local governments, the judiciary, the bar, legal aid providers from the non-government sector, non-government organizations, and donor community.
“Each of us has a role to play in making the justice system more accessible and people-centered, more understanding and more responsive to the needs of the citizens here in Ukraine,” addressed the participants Mission Director for USAID/Ukraine and Belarus James Hope. He expressed a hope that the discussion would result in development of a roadmap for improving access to justice for most vulnerable categories of the population.
“It is even more important that we commit ourselves to taking action to implement and achieve the goals that are going to be laid out in this people-centered justice approach. In doing so, all of you will not only help those most in need of support, but this will have a direct impact on the confidence in the ability of Ukraine’s legal system to provide justice,” emphasized Mr. Hope.
Minister of Justice Denys Malyuska stressed that the topic of the discussion is extremely important and concerns absolutely all spheres of activities of any government. Justice is one of possible and important elements of the general concept of people-centrism which has been proclaimed by the Government of Ukraine.
“We are engaged in the justice system and its people-centrism not only in a sense that we draft laws and regulations which concern justice or alternative dispute resolution, but also because we coordinate and ensure operation of the free legal aid provision system and enforce court decisions; these are essential components of access to justice. An individual should be in the focus of all said services,” pointed out Denys Malyuska.
According to him, people-centrism can be attained through digitalization of interaction with government justice authorities in the first place. This will not only streamline access to justice services but also eliminate numerous corruption-related risks.
Chairman of the Council of Judges of Ukraine Bohdan Monich mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic made many government authorities including the judicial ones operate in challenging conditions and agreed that implementation of electronic services should a priority in such situation.
Invited international experts from Argentina, the Bahama, and USA shared experience of their countries in implementing people-centered justice, whereas their Ukrainian counterpart highlighted urgent problems faced by Ukrainians when accessing justice including those associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and identified potential innovative solutions.
The event agenda included also interactive breakout sessions. Topics of the breakout sessions were determined with a survey which was undertaken prior to the event in order to find out priority areas of participants’ interest, such as problems at work, labor issues and unemployment, gender-related violence, access to quality of public services for internally displaced persons
The discussion laid foundation for future online meetings whose participant will make a more detailed analysis of specific justice problems and potential solutions.
“We are ready, while relying on the people-centered approach, to support establishment of a working group which would develop a roadmap for solving urgent problems hampering access to justice in Ukraine,” USAID New Justice Program Chief of Party David Vaughn ensured participants. “I wish you inspiration as real work is just beginning.”