Innovative approaches to enhance access to justice in Ukraine

March 01 2016


UNDP’s Project “Rule of Law and Community Justice for Conflict-Affected Areas in Ukraine” is UNDP Ukraine’s first major new rule of law initiative in a number of years. It forms part of a broader Rule of Law, Human Rights and Access to Justice Programme within UNDP’s comprehensive efforts to promote governance reforms and assist recovery and peacebuilding in conflict affected areas. It seeks to address both the causes and consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, support stabilisation of the situation, and promote constructive and systemic change in the justice sector, both in the conflict-affected areas and the country as a whole.

In order to achieve such a change, it is deemed necessary to alter the fundamental dynamic between individuals and communities as rights holders, and state institutions as duty bearers. While legislative and institutional reform is important, UNDP’s programming in the area rule of law and access to justice is premised upon the belief that true confidence between state institutions and citizens can be created primarily by improving the dialogue between them, as well as by strengthening the capacity of law implementation bodies for responsive, effective and rights-based service delivery: this is best done by not only focusing on legal procedures and mechanisms, but also by facilitating the development of inter- linkages and exchange of information and experiences from a bottom-up perspective. In this way, the community justice approach is expected to complement and reinforce the institutional and constitutional reforms in the justice sector.

For the Government of the Netherlands, security and the rule of law constitute a cornerstone of its development cooperation policy. The Dutch government especially wants to contribute to security and the rule of law in fragile states that suffer from instability and insecurity and where governance is weak. Globally, the Netherlands has been the main partner for UNDP in the area of rule of law and access to justice.

Innovating Justice

The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL), based in the Netherlands, will present its report “Innovating Justice” on the basis of a detailed and country-wide justice assessment, using an access-to-justice measuring tool - the Justice Needs and Satisfaction tool. It generates data on, and provides the basis for analysis of, citizens’ justice needs and maps out the functioning of justice institutions in response to those needs. HiiL’s Innovating Justice initiative applied the tool to ascertain the justice needs that Ukrainian people experience in their daily lives within their communities. By putting community concerns rather than legal definitions at the centre, the methodology used takes a broader and more comprehensive approach to justice issues than what is usually captured in classical rule-of-law related tools, which is in line with UNDP’s human rights-based access to justice concept. In particular, in July and August 2015, HiiL conducted a survey in Ukraine using the tool that examined:

  • Costs of justice – money, time, stress and negative emotions;
  • Quality of the procedures – the opportunity to express voice and influence processes and
    outcomes, respect, dignity and information about the process; and
  • Quality of the outcomes – fair distribution of the results, extent to which the damages are
    compensated and outcomes are explained and motivated.

The survey sample was randomly selected from the population of all Ukrainian regions, including Donetsk and Lugansk.

Scope and Rationale

Building upon UNDP Ukraine’s long experience working with civil society and the successful use of a community-based approach to local development, the new project’s ‘Community Justice Officers’ will work at the community level, but will be closely linked into national and regional structures and reform processes. Initially, the project will operate in five priority pilot regions, both conflict-affected regions in eastern Ukraine and areas that are not directly conflict-affected.

In the conflict-affected areas, the project will be fully integrated into UNDP’s area-based governance reform and recovery efforts, thus also reaching into dimensions of community security and social cohesion. Working from the ‘bottom up’, Community Justice Officers (CJOs) will help identify justice issues and priorities for local communities, foster cooperation between local civil society and justice service providers, and foster local initiatives, linking them with innovations being introduced in other regions, at the national level or based upon international experience and best practice.

As the fundamental premise of UNDP Ukraine’s new rule of law programming is to identify the justice service delivery needs and challenges of people at the community level, in both conflict-affected and non conflict-affected regions, the concrete data provided by various studies on people’s experiences and needs, coupled with broader UNDP methodologies and best practice in the field and country-specific innovative solutions, can inform and shape more effective UNDP initiatives, as well as nationally-owned reforms aimed at fostering improved access to justice from the ‘bottom up’.

Joining forces in the effort to promote the rule of law and access to justice in Ukraine

UNDP’s new project builds upon UNDP’s prior programming on human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine, as well as it community-based approach to development. The project also complements a number of rule of law and justice-related initiatives in the country that seek to get a better understanding of and promote community justice.

For example, the USAID-funded FAIR Justice Project has been working for a number of years to promote improved capacity, transparency, and accessibility of the courts, both at the national, regional, and local levels, and, more recently, civil society engagement with them. At the same time, the EU’s ‘Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine’ Project continues to support strategic reforms to increase the transparency and accountability of judicial bodies.

The Council of Europe continues its long-standing work on monitoring implementation of the Criminal Procedure Code, with two new initiatives to build capacity in justice institutions to protect human rights, including those of particularly vulnerable groups such as IDPs, and increase transparency.
At the same time, the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM) is expanding its outreach to the regions, including rolling out training to improve civilian-police coordination and cooperation in security/justice service delivery, such as community policing, at the regional level (in Kharkiv and Lviv). Moreover, Canada’s first initiative in the sector – closely coordinated with the EUAM – is currently winding down, but is expected to be continued in a second phase with a stronger emphasis on delivery at the regional and local levels.

The OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine has also had long-standing projects to strengthen human rights and the rule of law in legislative and judicial practices in Ukraine. Moreover, the OSCE SMMU conducted a series of inspections and interviews in Donetsk and Lugansk from May through August 2015 to obtain a picture of the impact of the conflict upon justice service delivery in both Government- controlled and non-Government controlled territory. The resulting report identifies a number of challenges, in terms of resources and physical access, as well as identifying potential remedies and priorities. OSCE’s ODIHR has recently launched an initiative to improve civil society oversight of, and advocacy on, human rights protection and increase public consultation and women’s participation in democratic processes.

Objectives of the workshop

  • To present the main findings of the HiiL report “Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Ukraine: Legal Problems in Daily Life” and the OSCE SMMU report “Access to Justice and the Conflict in Ukraine” to key national stakeholders, and discuss concrete ways of designing effective responses;
  • To raise awareness of people’s (comprehensive) justice needs and (systemic) obstacles to people’s access to justice in Ukraine, both in conflict-affected and not directly conflict-affected
    regions, amongst key national stakeholders;
  • To inform partners about UNDP Ukraine’s programming to promote access to justice at the community level, including the new ‘Rule of Law & Community Justice’ Project, as well as UNDP’s policies, methodologies, and best practice globally in this field, amongst key national stakeholders in view of identifying potential synergies and opportunities for collaboration;
  • To identify and present innovative solutions to increase people’s access to justice and improve justice-service delivery and dispute resolution at the community level in Ukraine.


Approximately 60-75 persons, including:

  • Public authorities – Presidential Administration, Verkhovna Rada (Justice Committee), Ministry of Justice, Legal Aid Coordination Centre, MIA, National Police, Ministry of Social Services (for IDPs)
  • Representatives of legal (aid) practitioners or providers (e.g., Bar)
  • Representatives of key civil society organisations
  • Judges, prosecutors, court administration
  • Other public institutions responsible for resolving disputes between people;
  • International rule of law community and development partners in Ukraine;
  • Representatives of the Netherlands MFA and the Norwegian Ministry of Justice;
  • Representatives of UNDP’s regional and global headquarters (Rule of Law, Human Rights and Access to Justice Programme)

Expected outputs

  • Improved awareness and understanding of new research methodologies tools to ascertain better people’s justice service experiences by national stakeholders and development partners, as well as by which civil society can monitor and hold justice service providers accountable;
  • Improved understanding of the principles and importance of the ‘bottom up’ approach in advancing access to justice, the rule of law, and legal and judicial reform by policy-makers, other national stakeholders, and development partners;
  • A better understanding on the part of national and regional level stakeholders and development partners of people’s actual justice needs and the barriers facing them at the community level;
  • Identification of specific methodologies, best practice or innovations that might be developed, adapted, and applied to improve access to justice and justice service delivery at the community level in Ukraine; and
  • Greater awareness of, and specific input for substantive community-based access to justice work for, UNDP’s ‘Rule of Law & Community Justice’ Project.

Relevant resources

  • HiiL, “Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Ukraine: Legal Problems in Daily Life” Report (2015).
  • OSCE SMMU, “Access to Justice and the Conflict in Ukraine” Report (2015).