Triple A: what does it stand for?
Access to information
Citizens must find a free, personal, independent, confidential and impartial service they can trust. This can take the form of self-help manuals or interactive tools to help resolve an issue through preventative action. In certain circumstances, however, it is necessary to go into the individual circumstances and find a solution face-to-face. In all cases, citizens should receive the same high level of service and care.
Everyone has an equal right to “come to our door”, irrespective of income, status, language or belief and to be treated with dignity and respect. People should be able to find and access information about their rights in the most convenient way possible. Equal access requires reaching out to those most in need as a result of having a modest income or being in vulnerable situations because of a disability, social exclusion or other reason.
Citizens should not be left in situations of impasse, or have to start the whole process over again each time they seek assistance. In a small number of cases it is necessary to go further, often in cooperation with more specialised services (i.e. in debt, housing or social entitlements) and provide pro-bono legal support or assistance towards preparing an administrative or judicial appeal. There is consensus that the one-stop shop is the right approach since many citizens have a range of interrelated questions, i.e. about housing, social benefits, their wages or pension and expect to find at least a first answer without being sent from one service to the next. This is also the approach favoured by funders, particularly at a time of cuts in public expenditure. The trend is to encourage more advice services to come together and also for smaller ones to merge into larger units with wider geographical scope in order to achieve economies of scale.
The project began in December 2012 and since then, it has provided free legal aid, advice and information to thousands of citizens in the Western Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo) and Turkey. In March 2015, the project entered its second phase and expanded its services to three additional countries in the region: Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. There is an increased focus on advocacy in all countries in this phase, with the main objectives being to:
- Show to policymakers the importance of Triple A Services and highlight how the information gleaned from these services can lead to improved and well-informed legislation which addresses the main gaps and shortcomings in current legislation.
- Improve/implement current legislation in the WB and Turkey.
- Increase funding to the free legal aid sector in each country.
- Fostering a sustainable environment for providers of Triple A services to operate.
- Publicize the availability of Free Legal Aid and other Advice, Information, and Active help services within the country.
In order to achieve this, we do not believe in a one size fits all approach, but that organizations can benefit from knowledge of best practices and solidarity throughout the region. The project is active in the following countries:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Croatia (in the first phase only, from 2012-2015)