The USAID New Justice Program and the International Expert Group Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies supported the second nationwide online consultation on people-centered justice issues in Ukraine on July 15. Representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman of Ukraine, the Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy, the State Labor Service of Ukraine, the Judiciary, the Bar, NGOs, and the donor community jointly identified the next steps to implement the people-centered approach to justice in Ukraine to improve access to justice for all.
Welcoming the participants, Deputy Minister of Justice Oleksandr Banchuk noted that the introduction of people-centered justice is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Justice, for example, through the work of Free Legal Aid centers and expert groups working to identify gaps in legislation that hinder the application of such approach in Ukraine. Deputy Minister on Justice for European Integration Valeria Kolomiets, in turn, spoke about the approval of the National Strategy for Human Rights, which addresses the issue of combating gender-based violence.
It is essential for the ministry to learn foreign experience in combating gender-based violence to apply the best practices that focus on human needs in providing legal assistance to victims,” said Ms. Kolomiets.
Supreme Court Justice Nadiya Stefaniv emphasized the importance of establishing unimpeded access to justice in the COVID-19 pandemic environment and hoped that an all-Ukrainian national consultation would help develop unified approaches for achieving this result, as well for possible simplification of court cases consideration.
Justice is not just about laws and procedures. Even the most progressive laws and fair procedures do not matter if they do not deliver meaningful justice services to people. At the same time, justice is not just about courts and judges. Justice is foremost about the people. Justice requires that all institutions, including the judiciary, the Bar, prosecutors, investigators, Ministry of Justice, the Free Legal Aid system, NGOs work together to ensure people’s basic right to have their legal problem solved in an efficient and timely manner,” defined people-centered justice Jay Totte, Anti-Corruption Lead Specialist, USAID/Ukraine Office of Democracy and Governance.
He also stated that the sooner we realize the importance of this shift towards the people-centered justice approach, the sooner we will be able to close the justice gap that really prevents people from fully participating in economic, political, and social life of the communities.
Maaike de Langen, Program Lead on Justice for All, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies at NYU’s Centre for International Cooperation, told about preparing an expert group report on the state of people-centered justice in the world. Ms. Maaike also noted that much had been done thanks to the joint efforts since the first meeting and the first consultations on people-centered justice in Ukraine.
These efforts have resulted in a roadmap for applying a people-centered approach in facilitating access to justice when obtaining restrictive orders for victims of gender-based violence, including domestic violence. The roadmap was presented during the discussion. Representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court, the Coordination Center for Legal Aid, the Office of the Prosecutor General, non-governmental organizations – Ukrainian Women Lawyers Association “JurFem,” La Strada-Ukraine and the Ukrainian National Bar Association, and also international partners were involved in the development of the roadmap. The document states the urgent need for actions, including raising awareness of restrictive orders as a mechanism to protect victims of gender-based violence, including domestic violence; development and dissemination of a user-friendly sample application for a restrictive order; removal of existing legislative barriers; improving the quality of court decisions, in particular through the generalization of case law in this category of cases; establishing operational cooperation between government authorities and ensuring the prompt execution of court decisions on the issuance of restrictive orders.
The participants also got acquainted with the survey results on Legal Needs of Informal Employees in Ukraine, conducted by a coalition of NGOs Legal Development Network. In the survey, informal employees reported more legal problems compared to those officially employed: refusals to provide paid sick leaves, paid annual or maternity leave, and so on.
The introduction of a roadmap and recommendations based on the study analysis will help close gaps in access to justice to protect the rights of those who have become most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summing up the consultation, Andrew Solomon, Senior Rule of Law Advisor, USAID, reminded the audience that in 2019 Ukraine signed the Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030, which contains paths and approaches to implementing a people-centered approach justice.
By conducting these consultations and developing this roadmap, you are leading, Ukraine is leading in applying the principles and practices of people-centered justice – more data-driven, user-friendly, problem-solving justice,” he said.
In the nearest future, all interested partners will be involved in discussing the action plan for implementing the road map and recommendations based on the results of the study.
Consultation materials are available here.
The first all-Ukrainian consultation took place in November 2020. Then participants were introduced to the concept of people-centered justice and examples of its application in other countries, discussed what people-centered justice means in practice, and paved the way for further thematic nationwide consultations.