Pilot Projects and partners from the Western Balkans attended a two day study visit to Dublin in February, which was hosted by the National Association of Citizens Information Services (NACIS). NACIS is a partner in the Triple A project, funded by EU and led by European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), which aims to support access for citizens to information, advice and active help services in Western Balkans and Turkey. The project seeks to promote the role of civil society in giving citizens a voice and influencing government policy on key reforms and their implementation. The immediate objective of the project is to spread the citizens’ advice concept to the Western Balkans and Turkey. In the first phase organisations from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Turkey received grant aid to set up Information, Advice and Active Help services. For further information you can check the objectives of the project here.
The project has now entered its second phase and additional organisations from Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania have received grant aid to provide similar services in addition to conducting advocacy campaigns to strengthen access to justice in their respective countries. This is the second study visit organised by NACIS for Pilot Projects and Partners and the visiting group included representatives from the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, The Coalition of ‘All for Fair Trials Macedonia’, NGO LIL Macedonia, the Open Society Foundation Albania, Res Publica Albania, The Centre for Monitoring and Research Montenegro, the Association of Youth with Disabilities Montenegro and the Centre for Civic Education Montenegro in addition to the European Citizens Action Service which is the lead partner in the Triple A Project.
Round Table at the Bar Council of Ireland
The two day study visit was quite intensive and included presentations from the CEO of the Citizens Information Board, the National Association of Citizens Information Services, Dublin City Centre Citizens Information Service (DCC CIS), the National Advocacy Service and the Community Law & Mediation Service. As the Development Manager of Dublin City Centre CIS, Deirdre Casey was very involved in the organisation of the study visit staff from DCC CIS made a number of presentations to the group and participants had the opportunity to visit the busy city centre service and observe the Information, Advice & Active Help process in action. The Advocacy Support Worker for Dublin, from Clondalkin CIS also presented to the group on Advocacy Infrastructure and Supports.
Some participants also visited the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities and Pavee Point, which provides supports to the Roma and Traveller Communities in Ireland. As there is a stronger focus on Advocacy Work and strengthening access to justice in this phase of the project, visits were also made to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the Four Courts, and the FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) office who presented on the Civil Legal Aid Scheme in Ireland and their Public Interest Litigation and campaigning work. Visits to the Bar Council of Ireland (which provides a Voluntary Assistance Scheme for NGOs) and Mc Cann Fitzgerald solicitors gave the participants the opportunity to hear about the possibilities of Pro Bono service provision.
Feedback from the delegates who visited London beforehand , indicates that they found the Study Visits very useful and they left with new ideas about providing information, advice and advocacy, which they could apply back home.
The National Association which was twinned with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the first phase of this project is currently twinned with Albania in this second phase. The Open Society Foundation, the Albanian Partner is an NGO, which uses monitoring, policy analysis, advocacy, litigation and grassroots activism to help the country pursue democratisation and EU integration. Res Publica, which is running one of the pilot projects, is a public interest law organisation, working to promote and safeguard respect for fundamental human rights through strategic litigation, advocacy, human rights education, and research and policy development. The Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS) which is one of the other pilot projects in Albania aims to raise awareness on the rule of law and human rights. TLAS is also a free legal aid provider and deals with the issue of statelessness in particular.
Albania faces significant challenges and the Triple A Project aims to support NGOs who are trying to effect positive changes in strengthening democracy and the rule of law and increasing access to justice in the country. The National Association of Citizens Information Services in Ireland is supporting the new pilot projects in Albania.