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The EU contributes to improved Access to Justice in The Gambia

Mar 25, 2015, 12:59 PM

On Tuesday, March 24, the EU funded project ‘Access to justice and legal education’ held its inaugural Technical Committee Meeting to launch preparations for its Civic Awareness campaign to begin later this year. This action in support of ‘`Access to justice and legal education’ is contributing £ 4.5 million (equivalent to GMD 242 million) to justice reform in The Gambia. It is part of the wider EU funded Governance Programme of € 10 million (equivalent to GMD 540 million) which includes: (i) Access to justice and legal education, (ii) Journalism and the media, and (iii) Public financial management.

The meeting was held at the office of the National Agency for Legal Aid in Banjul and attended by representatives of major Gambian stakeholder institutions and the EU Delegation. Organizations represented included the Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary, Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, National Centre for Civic Education, National Agency for Legal Aid (NALA), Alternative Dispute Resolution System (ADRS), and Non-Government Organizations such as the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG). The working session concluded with detailed guidelines for implementing the awareness campaign, a timeline for completion, and plans to sign a memorandum of understanding calling for the members’ participation in the awareness campaign funded by the EU.

This project is implemented over 25 months from November 2014 to January 2017. Throughout this period, the EU funded Technical Assistance for Access to Justice and Legal Education Project will advance its objectives to improve access to legal services and remedial justice services such as alternative dispute resolution with a focus on vulnerable groups, legal education and research, and management of court cases. Its main activities in support of access to justice include the implementation of a civic awareness campaign on access to justice mechanisms, sensitization of customary leaders to standards for good justice practices, and support to mediation and arbitration as alternatives to dispute resolution.

 Legal education will focus on support to improving the curriculum of the University of the Gambia Law Faculty, an exchange program for lecturers, and recommendations for improving the Bar preparation programme of the Gambia Law School for new lawyers entering law practice in The Gambia. It will also support the updating of research materials for modem law, Sharia law, and customary law jurisprudence.

Concurrent with its civic awareness campaign activities, the project is also laying the groundwork for its support to continuous training of judges and court staff of the Modem and Cadi courts, and the District Tribunals. Its judicial training expert will soon initiate an assessment of training needs and review progress in judicial training since the conclusion of similar donor projects in the past. He will be working closely with members of the Judiciary, Cadi Appeals Panel, and Ministry of Lands and Regional Government.

 Since its start in November 2014, the project has hired five experts and completed preparatory work on updating the current status of laws relevant to The Gambia’s Tripartite Justice System of Modem Common Law, Islamic Sharia Law and Customary Law.