Strengthening Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa – Naivasha, Kenya 2013

Enashipai Spa & Lodge, Naivasha, Kenya, site of the conference.

Enashipai Spa & Lodge, Naivasha, Kenya, site of the conference. ANN MCRAE

On the third day of the conference on the rights of children and youth, participants from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda listened with rapt attention as Emily Chan distributed and commented on educational materials on the rights of children and youth. Emily outlined her tips for making sure that one’s efforts get to the right people, using the most attractive and appropriate medium, and that they are understood by the intended audience. Each national working group brought its own samples, to compare and discuss. Much of the material prepared for youth in Ontario resonated with East African professionals working with youth in the justice system, in corrections, in probation services and state prosecutor offices. Piles of samples melted away faster than ice cream in the African sun.

Canadian Bar Association SAJCEA Project Director Darren Thorne, flanked by the Canadian Bar Association's Needs Assessment Specialist Mary Marrone (far left), and CBA Gender Issues Specialist Elizabeth Wilson, with Margaret Mbsiro from Cradle, an NGO supporting children's rights, and, at far right, specialist in Public Legal Education in children's issues Emily Chan.

Canadian Bar Association SAJCEA Project Director Darren Thorne, flanked by the Canadian Bar Association’s Needs Assessment Specialist Mary Marrone (far left), and CBA Gender Issues Specialist Elizabeth Wilson, with Margaret Mbsiro from Cradle, an NGO supporting children’s rights, and, at far right, specialist in Public Legal Education in children’s issues Emily Chan. ANN MCRAE

In the afternoon Ann McRae gave a presentation on the use of non-lawyers in service delivery in Legal Aid Ontaro’s environment. Each of the terms “paralegal” and “community legal worker” has a significantly different meaning in East Africa from the ways those terms are used in Ontario. Two of the three participating countries are discussing the issues associated with paralegal regulation. Conference participants echoed the concerns that drove the process of paralegal regulation in Ontario a decade ago: quality of work, discipline, restrictions on practice, educational processes.

Almost all community legal workers in East Africa are volunteers. Most non-lawyers in the criminal justice system work for the state prosecutor or for Non-Government agencies working with accused or convicted persons. The term “paralegal” has a variety of meanings, which shift from one country to another. This adds to the difficulty of agreeing on who is to subject to regulation, and what level of education is required.

Representatives spoke on the range of duties and roles to which the term “paralegal” is applied in their countries. They bemoaned the poor performance by some “bush lawyers”, which causes paralegals to be held in low esteem. They laughed over the anomalies in their own legal structures (some of which have Canadian parallels), and confusion which the word generates in their own law societies.

Resources for legal services are much more scarce in East Africa than in Canada. Funding sometimes comes from donor governments and foundations. Non-lawyers are an essential element in the effort to extend services to areas of deep need and to areas of remote geography in a cost-effective way. Primarily, non-lawyer services in urban areas serve to explain the law to accused persons, assist with bail, explain police process and the law, both before and after conviction.

Kenyan Deputy Attorney General making closing remarks

Kenyan Deputy Attorney General making her closing remarks to the conference. ANN MCRAE

The Deputy Attorney General of Kenya closed the conference by conveying the appreciation and encouragement of the Attorney General, for the shared work of improving the welfare of children and youth.

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Toronto ON, Canada.

Mary Marrone is the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Income Security Advocacy Centre, Toronto ON, Canada.

Emily Chan is the Community Development Lawyer with Justice for Children and Youth, Toronto ON, Canada.

Darren Thorne is the Canadian Project Director for Strengthening Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa, Ottawa ON, Canada.

Elizabeth Wilson is the Manager of Operations and Gender Programing with the Canadian Bar Association’s International Development Committee, Ottawa ON, Canada.

Strengthening Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa – Naivasha, Kenya 2013

Conference attendees gathered at the end of day one.

Conference attendees gathered at the end of day one. FACEBOOK / AARON BESIGYE, UGANDA LAW SOCIETY

Legal experts are meeting in Naivasha, Kenya, this week to discuss strengthening access to justice for children and youth in East Africa. The forum, organized by Supporting Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa (SAJCEA), the Canadian Government, and the Canadian Bar Association, is joined by our own Director of Legal Services, Ann McRae. She took some time today to let us know how the first day of the conference shaped up:

The conference began on the bus trip along the rift valley: participants from East African countries had gathered with the Canadian visitors at the offices of the Kenya Law Society in Nairobi. Lively conversations had already begun before the bus was loaded for the trip to Lake Naivasha, the conference site.

Legal aid here is largely provided by pro bono lawyers, or by non-government agencies (NGOs).

The focus of this conference is the protection of the rights of children and young people in the criminal justice process, as well as other areas of law. What legal services are available are a combined effort of the bar, the governments and partner agencies. The result is a patchwork with many gaps, with great variation from one country to the next. For example, some “legal clinics” and “community legal workers” exist, but often not working with lawyers.

Mary Marrone (Income Support Advocacy Centre) and Aaron Besigye (Uganda Law Society)

Mary Marrone (Income Support Advocacy Centre) and Aaron Besigye (Uganda Law Society) ANN MCRAE

Kenya has a new constitution as of 2010, and with that comes new social and political priorities. Efforts of projects like this one are needed to extend legal and constitutional protections to the most vulnerable. Today the East African working groups are reporting on progress so far in their respective countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), whether on law reforms, coordinated training for paralegals or access to government supports. Tomorrow Mary Marrone, Income Support Advocacy Centre, leads a discussion on needs assessment as an essential phase in any planning for change and improvement of access to justice. Later in the conference, Emily Chan, Justice for Children and Youth, will share techniques and best practices in public legal education on access to justice for children. A panel on the use of paralegals, on the third day, will give Ann McRae of Rexdale Community Legal Clinic (Legal Aid Ontario) an opportunity to compare the Ontario model with those of other jurisdictions.

A visit to the conference grounds by three hippos on the first evening was a slight distraction.

Hippo in the water

STOCK PHOTO SXC.HU

Everyone at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic is proud and excited that Ann is joining this international group of experts deliberating on Access to Justice for youth in East Africa. Access to Justice is a world-wide issue, and was a major focus of the Canadian Bar Association’s 2013 Canadian Legal Conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We look forward to hearing more from Ann in the coming days.

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Toronto ON, Canada.

Mary Marrone is the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Income Security Advocacy Centre in Toronto ON, Canada.

Emily Chan is the Community Development Lawyer with Justice for Children and Youth, Toronto ON, Canada.

Aaron Besigye is an Advocate with the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society, Kampala, Uganda.

External Links:
Daily National (Kenya): Children’s rights conference set for Naivasha