PRESS RELEASE: FIRST NATIONAL LEGAL AID CONFERENCE HELD
Conference Aimed at Establishing a Pro Bono Mechanism to Enhance Accessibility of Legal Aid Services to Vulnerable Groups
Bandos Island, July 19, 2016: The United Nations Development Programme, in collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office and Family Protection Authority, is holding the country’s first “National Legal Aid Conference” under the theme “Pro bono initiatives: building partnerships in legal aid”.
While the Legal Aid Bill currently in the process of being formulated is a notable step towards providing fundamental right to legal aid, and will address the State’s constitutional obligation to provide legal aid in serious criminal cases, the aim of this conference is to go beyond this legal obligation. The conference will address the broader concept of legal aid as being a necessary component of access to justice.
“Legal aid is a key component of access to justice. It is a means for empowering those whose rights need to be protected the most. It is also a fundamental Human Right entrenched in numerous international obligations,” said Shoko Noda, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference. In her speech, Ms. Noda further called for a local model that would enhance access to justice for vulnerable groups. She urged to explore ways in which legal assistance could be expanded to those residing in islands.
As emphasized by the Attorney General of Maldives, Uz Mohamed Anil, the main objective of this conference is to engage with the legal community and relevant stakeholders to explore alternative legal aid mechanisms, including pro-bono initiatives to enhance accessibility to legal aid services at a national level. The conference would also aim to build consensus among the participants on a formal mechanism for providing pro bono legal service to vulnerable and marginalized groups of the population through a public-private partnership.
“In establishing a legal aid mechanism, it is important to ensure everyone - especially the most vulnerable, are able to attain equal access to justice,” stated Chief Justice, Honorable Uz Abdullah Saeed, who presided at the ceremony.
The conference was organised into four plenary sessions, which focused on;
· The Role of Legal Aid in Enhancing Access to Justice
· Enhancing Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual and Gender-based Violence
· Pro Bono Developments and Initiatives through Public-Private Partnerships – the Regional Experience
· Localised Model for Providing Pro Bono Legal Services
The conference aims to facilitate the establishment of a Clearing House model through a public-private partnership, where interested legal service providers could enter into a memorandum of understanding with the designated state agency to provide pro bono legal services.
As highlighted by Ms. Aneesa Ahmed, Board Member of the Family Protection Authority, “pooling resources by government, private sector and CSOs is key for an effective legal aid mechanism.”
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