By María Luisa Domínguez, Senior Technician in the Democratic Governance Area, head of Inclusive Justice, EUROsociAL+ Programme.
When we were faced with the challenge of telling our story from a perspective which is different from what is traditional (one which is more focused on activities and results), what EUROsociAL does along the lines of Inclusive Justice, we decided to emphasise some numbers. These numbers not only indicate quantities, but also qualities. Here are some of them.
The number 15 represents the years that the European Union programme EUROsociAL has been supporting social cohesion in Latin America. From its inception in 2005 to 2020, EUROsociAL has been accompanying public institutions in Latin America in the design and implementation of a multiplicity of public policies in all areas: social, economic, justice, gender, regional development, good governance, etc. And at all levels: regional, national and local. During these 15 years we have seen 3 phases of the programme, in very different contexts: crisis and economic boom, social conflicts and democratic stability and, more recently, pandemic and humanitarian, economic and social crisis. Also with different focuses: pilot projects in the first phase; orientated to requests from and specific results of public policy in the following two. But in these three decades, the DNA and the spirit of the programme has remained the same: to fight against inequalities and improve social cohesion in the region. In Inclusive Justice, the programme has been pioneering in reducing barriers to access to justice for people in vulnerable conditions, which in 2008 materialised in the Brasilia Rules, and that today we are supporting in its conversion to an international agreement.
16, 10 and 5. Global Agenda
Promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies is what the 2030 Agenda proposes in its SDG 16, and more specifically in goal 16.3 Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and guarantee equal access to justice for all. At EUROsociAL we understand access to justice to be a key right that allows the exercise and guarantee of other basic rights such as health, education, housing, identity, etc. For this reason, we have placed emphasis on the protection and dissemination of the rights of groups that are in a vulnerable condition: people in the context of mobility, migrants and refugees, children and adolescents; victims and witnesses of crimes; youth in conflict with criminal law; persons deprived of liberty; people belonging to ethnic minorities; and women who find themselves in situations of gender discrimination. And this SDG 16 is an enabler for the achievement of other SDGs: 10, referring to the reduction of inequalities, and 5, which seeks gender equality.
It is impossible in this brief space to make a detailed list of the numerous actions currently being carried out in the region with the institutions of the justice system: Judiciaries, Ministries of Justice, Prosecutors, Public Defenders and Prison Systems.
Our fundamental reference here are the aforementioned 100 Rules of Brasilia and the Guides of Santiago for the Protection of Victims and Witnesses, reference documents whose preparation has been promoted by EUROsociAL within the framework of regional justice networks.
For the proper development of our work we apply SDG 17, and in particular with goal 17.16 aimed at “improving the global partnership for Sustainable Development, complemented by alliances between multiple stakeholders that mobilise and exchange knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, in order to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all countries, particularly developing countries”.
The association with regional networks, and in particular with the justice networks of Latin America, has been one of the hallmarks of EUROsociAL since its inception in 2005. Promoting alliances and networks for the exchange of experiences and good practices between counterpart institutions in the Latin American and European regions has been one of the central pillars of EUROsociAL and in this we have been pioneers. This has enabled us to move forward in building common responses in several countries to shared problems, such as strategic reference frameworks for public policies at the regional level; joint declarations or guidelines, common model standards or protocols, etc.
We accompanied the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, through the Brasilia Rules Follow-up Commission, in the definition of the first version of the Rules in 2008, in their update in 2018, in the implementation of the Rules in the countries, transferring them to national programmes, policies and plans for access to justice, and currently in the Roadmap to convert the Rules into an International Convention.
Also since 2007, we have collaborated with the Ibero-American Association of Public Attorney Offices-AIAMP, strengthening it and supporting the formation of its different Networks (Network of Prosecutors against corruption and Specialised Gender Network) and Working Groups. In 2008, the Santiago Guide for the Protection of Victims and Witnesses was prepared and approved with the support of the programme, and in this third phase we collaborated with the Group of Victims and Witnesses in the review and update of these Guidelines, which will be approved in early November at the AIAMP General Assembly.
In 2012, in Fortaleza Brazil, the kick-off was given to EUROsociAL’s collaboration with the Inter-American Association of Public Defenders-AIDEF. These eight years of collaboration have been intense and very fruitful, which has allowed progress in the design of regional models that have subsequently been implemented at the national level. From the Regional Guide for public advocacy and comprehensive protection of persons deprived of liberty; the manual for monitoring Human Rights in detention centres by the Public Defenders; and the regional manual on the Bangkok Rules in terms of Public Advocacy, in the second phase of the programme.
In this third phase, the AIDEF is being accompanied in two very strategic actions that attempt to respond to two very present challenges currently in the region: on the one hand, the cases of institutional violence that occur in prisons in Latin America; and on the other, the situation of exclusion and vulnerability of people in a context of mobility and who require special attention to improve the advocacy and enforcement of their rights.
In the first case, a regional Model for the System of Registration, Communication and Comprehensive Attention to Victims of Institutional Prison Violence – SIRCAIVI has been designed, which is currently being implemented in 3 countries: Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica, and in the second, progress is being made in the design of a regional model and the creation of a regional network of legal assistance to people in the context of mobility from Public Defender Offices.
Through work with these networks, EUROsociAL has contributed to the strengthening of the rule of law, promoting the protection and defence of human rights, an indivisible and intrinsic relationship, fundamental not only for social cohesion, but also for democracy.
19- Resilience and reconstruction
And then COVID-19 arrived. Finally, in the current context, we could not forget the COVID-19 pandemic that has come to disrupt and condition everyone’s lives, but which is particularly and disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable groups, as shown by various international organisations such as the OHCHR, the IACHR or ECLAC to name some of them.
Human rights and their protection and guarantee are crucial in times of crisis. In this context, EUROsociAL has quickly made itself available to countries to redirect their actions and respond to the effects of this global pandemic and to lay solid foundations for recovery and reconstruction, leaving no one behind and not allowing the violation of any rights.
This involves putting people at the centre of public policies, especially the most vulnerable, and preparing justice systems to overcome current difficulties, guaranteeing the functioning of an independent and fair justice system. The application of the Brasilia Rules as a mandatory norm can be a powerful weapon to fight against the coronavirus and from EUROsociAL+ we will do everything possible to make it so.
Related audiovisual content: “Justice for social cohesion”