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KyivLEPP-2020: from legal aid to Ukrainians in Poland to protection of victims of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan

Participants of the Kyiv Legal Empowerment Practical Program (KyivLEPP) have developed projects aimed to improve access to justice in five countries. We tell in the digest what we together with colleagues from Ukraine, Poland, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Northern Macedonia managed to make as a result of half a year.

KyivLEPP provides an opportunity for joint intellectual work to experts in the field of access to justice from different countries. The goal of the Program is to find and pilot viable, innovative and people-centric practical solutions in the field of access to justice, in accordance with the national contexts.

For the second year in a row, the program announces recruitment of ideas for teams from different countries. The key criteria for selecting a team are a detailed innovative idea aimed at solving a legal problem relevant to the applicant country and a mandate to solve this problem, i.e., we invite those who are able to influence policy-making in their country. The teams shall consist of representatives of government agencies, NGOs, students and curators of legal clinics, social workers, paralegals, and representatives of key communities. 

For two years, teams from Argentina, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, Northern Macedonia and Kenya took part in the program. This year, the teams “passed” their ideas through a design thinking methodology that allows them to immerse themselves in the problem of access to justice, identify target groups, focus, analyse alternative solutions, defend their ideas through a crash test and present them at the end of the cycle. 

After a five-day incubation of the idea through a design thinking methodology and a crash test of prototype ideas, the teams will come up with ready-made solutions. Then the stage of mentoring support will begin – program experts will accompany each team to prepare a detailed action plan for the implementation of these ready-made solutions, this stage will last another month.

Among key tasks of the Program is not only the exchange of experiences of victories and defeats in solving legal problems of each country, but most importantly – implementation of ideas that were incubated during the five-day intensive design thinking. 

Of the 5 participating teams of KyivLEPP-2020, all implemented their ideas

Joint Ukraine-Poland team came to the Program with several problems – they were concerned that a large number of Ukrainian workers in Poland often do not have access to legal assistance in matters of labour, family, tax, migration legislation. To solve the problem, the initiative group joined forces of the Associations of Legal Clinics of Poland and Ukraine, which formed a team and applied to KyivLEPP. In the Program, the team has developed a solution that will help Ukrainian students in Poland and Poles in Ukraine through students and curators of legal clinics. Together with the experts of the Program, the team designed a cross-border interactive IT platform for legal clinics, which allows case exchange, real-time collaboration on cases for several legal clinics, application of clients directly to the platform where cases are assigned. 

After several months of working with IT specialists based on the KyivLEPP prototype, the platform is now operating in test mode, the pilot must collect bugs in the platform design and user feedback to improve it and launch it on a full scale. The test platform now looks like this: https://cutt.ly/0n4Brjy

Northern Macedonia-1 team came to the Program with the problem of unavailability of legal aid for a significant number of residents living in remote villages (primarily the municipalities of Prilep, Krivogaštani and Dolnen). The legal aid system is designed in a way that professionals who work in the field have to overcome hundreds of kilometres of off-road. But even such visits are irregular, i.e., entire villages remain completely cut off from access to legal (and social) services.  The telephone and online services launched in the country during the first outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic alleviate the situation, but do not address all issues.

The idea of ​​solving this problem, which passed the crash test of the Program, was the launch of mobile offices of paralegals, who will regularly consult residents of remote villages and settlements. During KyivLEPP, the team developed an action plan to implement their ideas, thought about who should be involved in the work of such a mobile office, how to specialize the work of mobile offices for the needs of local residents for each region. 

After completing the intensive, the team planned and conducted a study of legal needs in the target regions, which formed the basis for launching the piloting of mobile offices of paralegals. 

Kenya team in KyivLEPP has developed a promotion plan for an alternative dispute resolution web platform  so that everyone can use it. Users of this web platform, two disputing parties, can come to a solution through video conferencing curated by experienced mediators.

Kenyans came to the Program with an unusual problem – they created an effective tool for resolving disputes online, but were faced with the fact that this tool is not used by local residents, but only used by business. The IT and mediators’ team, in fact, needed help in effectively disseminating information about both restorative justice and alternative dispute resolution, and about their own tool, which makes mediation cheaper and more accessible. In the Program, Kenyans have developed and tested an action plan to promote the topic.

As part of their action plan, they held a Virtual ADR Week. It took place not on the usual virtual platforms, like Zoom, but directly on the web platform Utatuzi Center. Thus, each participant of ADR Week was able to test it himself. 

Kyrgyz team tested in KyivLEPP its idea to create a specialized network of paralegals who will work to combat domestic violence in the country. The fact is that the official statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan report an epidemic of domestic violence in parallel with the COVID-19 epidemic. There were more than 9,000 registered cases in 2020, despite the fact that women traditionally do not seek help from government agencies due to the general low legal culture in society, gender stereotypes and low level of professional skills and knowledge of the victims’ protection procedures in a large number of law enforcement officers, lawyers, judges. 

The team came to the Program with the idea of ​​creating a network of paralegals, but in the process of design thinking and testing, they decided to specialize the network in countering domestic violence. In the team’s action plan – a competitive selection of paralegals (which has already taken place), training groups are now being formed. For their training program, Kyrgyz colleagues took a training course for public advisers – Ukrainian paralegals as a basis.

Northern Macedonia-2 team was the only team that came to the Program with a rather vague idea. However, the problem they came up with needed a very urgent solution, so the Program experts decided to work on it in KyivLEPP. The problem was that in Northern Macedonia, if a person owed, for example, for utilities, his bank account was blocked. At first glance, it seems not critical, but bailiffs also blocked social accounts for crediting pensions, financial assistance for people with disabilities and low-income citizens. More than 10,000 families from the Roma community have faced this. It happened that families surviving on social assistance were left without income and means of subsistence for six months.

The team from Northern Macedonia found a solution to this problem during the KyivLEPP design thinking course – they developed an advocacy campaign to prevent blocking of social accounts. In line with their plan, the team shot several videos of what happens to low-income families when their accounts are blocked. After that, the country’s leading channels talked about this problem, and then the government began to actively oppose the blocking of social accounts. Now the problem is solved! And the idea of ​​this team of KyivLEPP graduates was recognized as the best practical initiative in the Western Balkans according to the IRIS network – graduates of KyivLEPP-2020 from Northern Macedonia.

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Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision, Legal Development Network, Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, PRAVOKATOR.Kyiv legal club and Human Rights and Justice program of the International Renaissance Foundation together created the #KyivLEPP design-thinking course.

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