Announcement Archive

Sharing Good Practices: a Report on JSDF Dialogue Series

Friday, January 25th, 2013

story from Tokyo Development Learning Center

image image

JSDF Seminar
Speakers and participants gathered at TDLC for the JSDF Dialogue Series on December 19, 2012


“Strengthening Access to Justice for the Poor in the Russian Federation”, third session of the JSDF Dialogue Series was prepared jointly by the World Bank’s Global Partnerships and Trust Fund Operations Department (CFPTO),the World Bank Tokyo Office and the Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) on December 19, 2012. The seminar showcased the preparation, planning, impact, and lessons learned from a project funded by the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) that aimed to improve the accessibility and accountability of the justice system in Russia.

An audience composed of professionals from the private sector, governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, academia, and students gathered at TDLC, joined by World Bank officers who managed the project: task team leader (TTL), Amitabha Mukherjee, Lead Public Sector Specialist, and Yoko Kagawa, Operations Officer.

The session kicked off with opening remarks by TDLC Manager, Tomoyuki Naito, followed by Deputy Director of the Development Institutions Division, International Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Tatsuya Sugiura, who highlighted the features of the JSDF, praising TDLC as a platform for “disseminating good practices to those who are interested in World Bank projects,” he handed over the floor to the next speaker.

Opening up a Channel of Communication

“The purpose of the Dialogue Series is to bring the JSDF results within the reach of Japanese practitioners and the general public” Michael Koch, Director of the World Bank’s Global Partnerships and Trust Fund Operations Department (CFPTO) said in his prerecorded video message, “thereby opening up a channel of communication for practitioners, academia, civil society, and media in Japan.” He briefed the audience on the background of the grant and thanked the Government of Japan for its contributions, which totaled US$680 million including pledges, supporting 300 social development programs and projects up to June 2012.

This third session highlighted the characteristics that have made JSDF a unique tool and a leading source of support: the focus on the most vulnerable, the testing of innovative mechanisms to reach the poor, engaging communities in the overall process as well as strengthening local capacity and government institutions.

The project “Strengthening Access to Justice for the Poor in the Russian Federation” not only developed the judicial services in two of the poorest regions in Russia (Leningradskaya Oblas and Perm Krai) but also improved courts’ treatment of poor litigants and juvenile offenders’ rehabilitation services.

After an overview of the project by Mr. Mukherjee, the project managers from the implementing agencies in Russia spoke through a live video feed from Moscow and highlighted the achievements, challenges they faced in implementing the project, and the impact the project has made on the lives of the Russian people.

Mr. Mukherjee

“There was a concern as to whether the benefits of all these changes were actually reaching the people whom the laws were meant to protect.” — Amitabha Mukherjee, Lead Public Sector Specialist, The World Bank.

Situation in Russia

The managers explained that the project responded to the recent challenges that Russia is undergoing despite its economic growth. In Russia today more than 20 million people, approximately 14% of its population still lives in extreme poverty. The poor as well as the vulnerable groups such as single-parent families, pensioners, people with disabilities, and people living in rural and remote areas are especially at risk and can suffer violations of their legal rights due to lack of awareness and difficulties accessing the judicial system. The quality of service by public defenders in providing rigorous representation of citizens against the State was also another aspect to be tackled. Moreover, juvenile courts were non-existent in Russia. Despite initiatives by the Russian government to modernize its judicial system, “there was a concern as to whether the benefits of all these changes were actually reaching the people whom the laws were meant to protect,” said Task Team Leader Mukherjee.

The project was implemented by an autonomous Moscow-based NGO, the Institute of Law and Public Policy (ILPP), which together with the World Bank supervised the implementation of sub-grants by Citizen’s Watch and Perm regional Human Rights Center. Japan’s Nagoya University, which contributed its expertise in legal aid, was also a key partner in the success of the project.

Strengthening Access to Justice for the Poorest and Most Vulnerable

Marina Agaltsova, a project manager at ILPP explained that the establishment of legal aid using two distinct models—one using attorneys (Leningradskaya region) and the other allowing mediators to provide the legal aid (Perm Krai)—resulted in reaching out to 13,376 beneficiaries which exceeded the initial target of 11,000. A creative local solution, in this case, the use of libraries to raise public awareness of citizens’ legal rights and free legal aid services helped increase the number of beneficiaries.

To address the project’s goal of improving the treatment of poor litigants, the project identified criteria and developed methodologies for monitoring the fairness of court proceedings The monitoring methodologies were also adopted by several NGOs as a tool for civil society involvement in improving the accountability of courts.

Ms. Kagawa revealed that the issue of juvenile rehabilitation was initially not included in the scope of the grant. However, the sheer demand on the Russian side and personal belief and commitment by the Task Team Leader and his team, as well as the support by the Japanese government made it possible to integrate the issue of juvenile rehabilitation under the grant. As a result, methodologies to support vocational and juvenile rehabilitation were developed and 222 professionals were trained.

Ms.Kagawa
“I am quite certain that for those NGOs (that were) engaged in this project, they have really developed capacity to be engaged in future complex projects.” — Yoko Kagawa, Operations Officer, Public Sector & Institutional Reform, The World Bank; on the rigorous and complicated procedures the NGOs must follow to engage in WB trust funded projects

In summary, the project, “Strengthening Access to Justice for the Poor in Russian Federation” achieved not only tangible results by delivering improved legal service to the poor and the most vulnerable but also empowering the individuals by raising awareness of their legal rights. The supply-side of the judiciary services including attorneys, mediators, NGOs, and regional and federal authorities also benefited through networking and knowledge-sharing experiences and increased individual and institutional capacities.

Impact

As emphasized throughout the seminar, this project was unusual; not only did it intervene with the judiciary of a state; it yielded policy impacts on federal and regional levels. The project also helped shape Russia’s legal aid policy, such as the Federal Law on the Legal Aid System (Law No. 324-FZ of 2011) which was partially based on the experience from this project. Under the new laws, minimum standards for the provision of legal aid were raised and categories of cases eligible for free legal assistance were expanded to include more vulnerable populations eligible for free legal aid. Moreover, regional bodies gained a degree of flexibility in implementing the state-level policies on free legal aid and for the first time, non-state actors such as NGOs can now deliver legal aid services.

The seminar, “Strengthening Access to Justice for the Poor in the Russian Federation” was wrapped up with concluding remarks and the floor was turned over to receive questions from participants. After the official close of the seminar, several participants stayed behind to exchange business cards among themselves. Some gathered around the speakers to ask further questions and still more stood intently listening to the conversations of others gleaning information on the specifics of the project.

Q&A Session
A Japanese participant asking a question during the Q&A session.

A Japanese research institute staff commented after the event; “I really enjoy the video conference seminars because I can’t go abroad! It’s so good that I can directly hear the voices of the project beneficiaries and stakeholders.” She added that the public seminars offered her detailed information on the processes that take place behind development projects—information that is not always available on the Internet. “It’s also good because I can ask questions to the speaker directly.”