Over 20 participants took part in the virtual event conducted over three days
A consultation with senior legal professionals offering pro bono legal assistance to vulnerable groups was held between 15-17 June 2021. Participants with relevant experience and expertise were identified and invited, and over 20 participants including senior lawyers, legal aid consultants, and representatives from NGOs and CSOs participated in the event. The consultation was organised in partnership with the Bar Council of the Maldives.
The objective of the consultation was to enhance and facilitate access to justice in the Maldives by identifying issues that lawyers may face when providing legal services to vulnerable groups – including women, children, persons with disabilities, and migrant workers – and exploring best practices that may be adopted when responding to such issues. Expert panelists who participated in the consultation include international experts such as Emeritus Professor of Law Savitri Goonesekera and Timothy Fish Hodgson from the International Commission of Jurists; senior lawyers and activists engaged in providing pro bono legal services and legal aid to vulnerable groups; representatives from NGOs such as the Maldives Association of Persons with Disabilities, Transparency International Maldives, Public Interest Law Centre, Family Legal Clinic and Equal Rights Initiative; and representatives from State institutions such as the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services and the Maldivian Police.
Six different sessions were held, each discussing one of the vulnerable groups identified. The expert panelists made initial remarks while engaging in a conversation with Foundation Research Fellows to establish the international and domestic legal framework and context, engage in needs-mapping and explore issues that lawyers face and potential responses to such issues. The initial remarks made by the expert panelists were incisive and insightful and set the stage for a productive discussion. Afterwards, participants were invited to ask questions, make comments or share experiences. This resulted in a lively and robust conversation, providing much-needed insight into the needs of vulnerable groups and how lawyers can further access to justice for such groups.
An outcome document will be drafted by Foundation Research Fellows in order to keep a record of the discussions during the consultation, to map out issues faced by vulnerable groups, issues faced by lawyers in providing legal assistance to such groups and potential solutions and best practices to respond to such issues. This document will be shared with all relevant stakeholders to inform future interventions to enhance access to justice and to build the capacity of lawyers who work with such vulnerable groups. The event was part of the project entitled “Stabilising the Rule of Law by Supporting the Reform Agenda of the Republic of Maldives” funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.