Coordinator of the Inter-American Program of Judicial Facilitators Organization of American States
Access to justice through a mechanism of citizen participation
The judicial facilitators are a network of voluntary leaders of communities or districts. They are elected by the community and then appointed by the Judicial Power. The facilitators contribute to the democratic governability improving the levels of access to justice. It is a mechanism of conflict resolution with citizen participation.
The Facilitators provide different services to the population
- They mediate cases for which this is allowed by law.
- They advise the population on legal subjects.
- Offer to teach the population in different subjects
- Accompany citizens when they have to conduct their affairs before different institutions.
- Send cases to judges that are outsicde their competence and help to solve cases that are sent to them by judges.
Service of Judicial Facilitators
The network of facilitators is part of the Judicial Power. They bring justice to local communities as helpers of lower court judges.
The Service of Judicial Facilitators, is a service provided by the Judicial Powers, with technical assistance from Organization of American States (OAS) through Inter-American Program of Judicial Facilitators. The service is partly financed by Holland, Italy and Spain. At present, the service of Judicial Facilitators is broadly implemented in four countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay. This makes it one of the most international and broadly applied innovations.
1. Can you briefly describe the innovation, the problem it tries to solve and why it is necessary?
The Service of Judicial Facilitators is a mechanism of citizen participation in the justice administration, whose aim is to contribute to the access to the justice of the most vulnerable population.
The problem that is tried to solve with this initiative is the lack of access to the justice of the most vulnerable population, due to conditions of poverty, distances, ignorance of the laws, discrimination, absence of authorities, among others.
There is necessity of this service, because it is a viable alternative for the population that by different reasons cannot accede to justice, the facilitators they are where the organs administrators of justice cannot arrive, that is to say, are with the people in each district and community, enjoys the confidence of the population and respects the commitments that end many conflicts.
2. What makes your innovation unique?
What makes unique to the Service of Judicial Facilitators is the citizen participation in the justice administration, unique in its branch because it involves the population, approaches the Judge with the population and it gives a more human character him to the justice administrators.
The wilfulness of the facilitators and the gratuity of the service are elements that also make unique to this innovation, since it directly benefits the humble people who wish simple justice, quick and cheap. It causes that the population of limited resources has access of justice without delay, that the smaller problems are solved in its own community without causing costs, nor times and without their problems of justice are unpunished.
3. What triggered the development of the innovation?
The Service of Judicial Facilitators arose in the middle of the Nineties like a mechanism of support for the local judges, especially in the isolated communities more of Nicaragua. The service was established to help the local judges to carry out some proceedings that became difficult to them to realise, because many courts took care of several municipalities, counted little on personal and the state of the ways made difficult the transfer of the people towards the courts; to others of a high level of insecurity of the zone, which brought high levels of impunity consequently.
This way the facilitators became an effective mechanism to help the judges in diverse tasks, which showed to him the population that the facilitator was a bridge between both parts.
4. Which persons and organisations were involved in the development and what role did they play?
In the development of the service the leaders were involved who voluntarily helped to the judges and the population; the judges who saw a support in them; the Supreme Court of Justice of Nicaragua that incorporated the figure of the Judicial Facilitator within it Reforms to the Penal Procedural Code like an auxiliary mechanism in the justice administration, consequently, the facilitators officially happened to comprise of the structure of the Judicial Power and the Organization of the American States, which it offered the technical support through different financed projects of collaboration in his beginning the Cooperation from the Swedish Agency for the Internacional development (ASDI). Subsequent to it, the Service is implemented in other countries, where the Judicial Powers of Paraguay and Panama also played a very important roll institutionalizing the figure of the Judicial Facilitator, at the same time is born the Inter-American Program from Judicial Facilitators of the Secretariat of Legal Subjects of the Organization of the American States, who offers technical attendance to the Judicial Organs where the service is implemented; and the cooperators who offer the financial support like Italy, Holland and Spain.
5. What kind of resistance have you encountered and how have you overcome it?
Some local judges have shown resistance to offer to time to the facilitators for qualifications and advisings. It has been surpassed promoting the interchange of experiences of these with judges who yes have received support of the facilitators, that have demonstrated the benefits to them of the service, as far as diminution of the confliction, diminution of the cases that arrive at the courts, time availability to take care of cases more excellent, greater approach to the population and major confidence of the settlers in Justice.
6. How did you make the goals realistic and attainable, and at what time will which quick wins be available?
The main goal of the Service of Judicial Facilitators is to offer access to justice, and from the same moment of the existence of a facilitator it is fulfilled in this way. In order to obtain it, the Inter-American Program of Facilitators offers to technical attendance and support to the Judicial Powers with the aim of fomenting its capacities to administer the service, this entails, among others aspects:
- Inclusion of the Service of Judicial Facilitators in the legal bodies: laws, Regulations, reforms, decrees, dispositions, etc.
- Promotion and diffusion of the service to present the figure the facilitator. Identification of the zones with more vulnerable population and in conditions of poverty.
- Legal civic formation to the judicial facilitators and grant of tools for the performance of its labor.
- Sensitization to the local and operating judges of justice, through the implementation of an in good condition National Graduate of Judicial Facilitators.
- Technical attendance and support to judges in the appointment, formation and pursuit to the facilitators.
- Technical attendance for the management of bottoms before the municipal governments.
7. Will the innovation have an effect on other organisations in the chain and if that is the case,how will it affect them?
The facilitators positively bring about effects on the different authorities from justice administration, affecting them in all the aspects.
An example, of the effects that they cause is the diminution of confliction and the index of crimes, which to a great extent favors the National Police to him that does not count on the personnel nor the average ones to be able to offer security to the population.
8. How was the development funded and what were reasons for the financing organisation?
In its beginnings, the Service of Judicial Facilitators was financed by the cooperation of the Swedish Agency for the Internacional development (ASDI).
Like part of the diplomatic relations and cooperation of the Government of Sweden with Nicaragua, and according to the goals of the Swedish cooperation to create bases that allowed the poor men to improve their conditions of life, Sweden knew the coordinated efforts between the Government Nicaragua and the Organization of American Estados (OAS) to strengthen La Paz and the democracy in the zones post- warlike conflicts, giving like turn out an agreement of cooperation between the OAS and Sweden to support to the Commissions of Peace, this abrió spaces for the Service of Judicial Facilitators, through a project of improvement of access to justice in the first 14 municipalities.
9. Can you name 3 to 5 characteristics of the innovation that are most essential to making it work?
- Active Participation of the population in the escogencia of its facilitators.
- Gratuity of the services that lend the Judicial facilitators.
- Wilfulness of the facilitators in the benefit of the service.
- Adoption and appropriation of the service within the different structures from the Judicial Power.
- Support coordinated of the different operators from justice and the local authorities towards the facilitators.
10. How do you measure whether it is a successful innovation?
The success of the Service that impels the PIFJ measures through impact that it generates in the society, from the point of view of the positive changes in the access to justice, the citizen security, sort, poverty, democratic governability, human rights, environment, in the Judicial Power. The Service of Judicial Facilitators helps to the prevention and reduction of the indices of confliction by means of thousands of previous and extrajudicial mediations, tens of thousand of managements and advisings, as well as the diffusion of the legal culture between the population.
Although they do not mediate cases of sort violence, have contributed to reduce it thanks to the sensitization, information and the example. One of each ten women victims has found support in the Service of Judicial Facilitators.
The one that needs to justice has it at the hand, in its community, they do not spend in transport, honoraria, or in any case, it knows the information precise and it finds a support.
The security and local governability, allow that the economic activity is developed in a favorable climate.
The Service of Judicial Facilitators, harmonizes the indigenous right with the formal system of Justice.
They have improved the efficiency of the judicial offices, have reduced the access costs to justice and mainly, they have humanized to the Judicial Power.
The success is not easy to measure, but there are data that can be quantified and been able to be taken like indicators of the success of this innovation:
- The amount of served by the judicial facilitators to the population (mediations, advisings, to char them, supports, etc.).
- The car sustainability of the service. This one is a service offered voluntarily by natural leaders, common people of districts and communities. The local governments destine bottoms and the institutions help to enable them. To others, the service enjoys of a social and normative recognition; the population recognizes and the different structures from the Judicial Power, there is a Regulation of Judicial Facilitators and its figure is in the laws.
- The availability of the service. As it happens the time there are more countries interested in implementing this service, and once it begins to implement in a country, the service expands quickly within the national territory, mainly benefitting to the most vulnerable groups and in conditions of poverty.
- It is counted on a system of impact evaluation, by means of which students of the universities realise studies, investigations, comparisons or other that reflect the impacts of the service.
11. How many people or organisations benefit from this innovation now?
3 million people in conditions of extreme poverty and vulnerability can have access to the services that lend the judicial facilitators in the 4 countries of cover of the PIFJ (Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala). These 3 million are equivalent to a 25% of the total of poor men in the coverage area. But these numbers have a multiplying tendency, since every time they are plus the countries interested in implementing it. To others, the organs of justice administration also are benefitted, among them: supreme Cortes of Justice, Public Defensoría, Office of the public prosecutor, National Police. The municipal governments, Intendance or mayorships; as well as institutions of the environment, are benefitted just by the existence from the judicial facilitators. So it is the case of the descongestionamientos of the houses of administration of justice allowing in the same way to the organizations of the judicial powers of focusing in the most high-priority
cases or serious than they require major attention of the population that the demand. As well as, the facilitators contribute to that there is major governability, which favors to the municipal authorities insofar as there are more security of his citizens and conditions for the economic activities.
12. How many people or organisations could potentially benefit from it now or in the future (scaling-up)?
The people and organizations who could benefit in the future, are the people in conditions of extreme poverty and vulnerability as well as the different structures from the judicial powers of the 4 countries where at the moment the program has cover, including the rest of countries of the American continent that want to implement this Service. That in addition, it is an example for other continents
It is difficult to quantify the exact number of benefitted people, to the date there is considering of 500.000 people benefitted directly, and 3 million people with access to the Service; the tendency to future is that these numbers will increase, because the Service expands more and more within the countries of cover of the Program, and every time, they are more countries they implement than it.
13. Can you quantify the financial benefits? (Cost savings, additional income or otherwise)
The Services of Judicial Facilitators offer many financial benefits, the majority cannot be quantified with exactitude, nevertheless some realised studies have demonstrated that:
- Because it is a voluntary work, by which the facilitators do not happen a wage nor receive to the parts, is a self-sustaining service economically that can offer the Judicial Powers without incurring great budgets to offer it.
- The services of the judicial facilitators contribute to the economy of the population, mainly of poorest. The citizens save themselves what they could have invested in the payment of a lawyer and the costs of feeding and transport for the local court or institutions.
- The justice system saves time and financial and human resources that it had had to arrange to take care of this case that could well have solved a facilitator. With this the courts of smaller cases clear, saving time and money the Judicial Power. According to realised studies, the costs to solve a case by mediation are 40 times less if it realises a judicial facilitator that the cost of a case solved by a local court. And the time saving is at least of a 20%.
- The services of the facilitators also have effects in the local economy. When falling the confliction index increases the confidence of local investment.
14. Is the innovation financially viable and sustainable and if yes, how?
Service of Facilitators Judicial is viable and sustainable, since it has been adopted by the Judicial Powers and are the own administrators of justice those that give pursuit the same, through qualifications, compilation of information, equipping them with work material. This has its costs of operation.
The judicial powers cover expenses operation appellants of the Service to I make level the premises.
Also sources of financial support exist, such as the mayorships or Intendance, that contribute to resources for qualifications and materials so that the Service of Judicial Facilitators continues working and the population continues enjoying the benefits.
15. Can or will the innovation be used internationally and how will you overcome cultural differences?
The Service of Judicial Facilitators already is being implemented internationally, since there are four countries where the Judicial Powers with the technical support of the Inter-American Program of Judicial Facilitators of implement it to the OAS. To others, there are other Judicial Powers of other countries interested in implementing it, so it is the case of Honduras and Provinces of the north of Argentina.
The cultural differences are not a barrier for the service, since they are the Judicial Powers of each country implement that it and the facilitators are native leaders who realise their work in their districts and communities, to others problematic social the existing one in the Latin American nations are similar, therefore this experience can be impelled in others or all the countries of the E region including a other continents, respecting the legislation and idiosyncrasy of the countries, so to as already it has been realised in Panama, Paraguay and Guatemala.
16. What lessons did you learn along the way that could be useful to others?
The main lesson is that the Service of Judicial Facilitators fills an existing necessity in the different countries: one is truly a service that indeed allows access to justice of the vulnerable groups, such as the women and the population in extreme poverty.
- It is fundamental to obtain the will of the actors keys: To be able Judicial, local, operating judges of justice, National Police, municipal governments, among others.
- It is fundamental to maintain the work voluntary of the Judicial Facilitators, since receiving a wage threatens the nature of gratuity of the service for the population.
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