“We have to democratise the law and the right to access to justice and reduce the inequalities” as expressed by Oumar Dembele, the Coordinator of Plea and Communication at Deme So in late 2015. A long way we have come since his last visit to The Hague. Since Oumar’s visit in 2015, HiiL has been working hard on the development of the Paralegal Dashboard – an online tool, tailor-made for Deme So, that enhances file management and track the progress of their work on an online platform.
This interactive Dashboard organizes the available justice data around the justice needs of citizens. It will allow users to link various types of justice data in order to obtain a better idea about the performance of the existing justice processes. Next to user empowerment, Deme So will be endowed as well, in order to monitor justice from the people’s perspective and the work of their paralegals, that will give way to hold Malian justice providers accountable.
It was a pleasure to have Oumar back with us in our offices this December. During an intensive work week filled with testing and brainstorming, HiiL and Deme So have come to the final phase of the Dashboard. Oumar pointed out that HiiL’s expertise is what will make the Dashboard feasible and successful. “[…] we are used to working together and we need HiiL’s expertise to accompany and guide us in the deployment of the tool and aimed change. This is one of the essential dynamics of the improvement of access to justice in Mali – HiiL and Deme So share this perspective”. The work that is being accomplished will not only bear fruits for citizens, but will pave the way for future partnerships with Malian authorities and policy-makers. Ultimately, it results in mirroring the bright spots and improvement points in the justice sector within the country.
Deme So envisions to evaluate and demonstrate the impact of the paralegal’s work in the Malian judicial system by the help of the Dashboard. “First, we can reinforce the technical capacity of Deme So by means of implementing the tool and follow-up with the interventions of the Paralegals and our capacity to influence the justice environment”. HiiL will guide and assist Deme So throughout the process of understanding citizen’s rights, being able to fulfil citizen rights and to enhance the work of the paralegals. The dashboard will incorporate case data, individual level perceptions and evaluations of sensibilisation campaigns that can help Deme So to track the process of their paralegals. This process is in line with HiiL’s value: a citizen-centered bottom-up approach.
Citizens are at the core of this mission for justice. “[…] promoting and defending the marginalised people is the principle targeted result.” Mr. Dembele illustrated a recent case about an old Qur’anic mayor who lost everything. The man does not have any money or property and lives on the street. The mere fact that a paralegal listened to his story gave him inner peace, he told Deme So. It gave him hope. Though his case is still pending and the outcome remains unclear, the man feels he’s in a better position on account of the paralegal’s help.
Drawn from our last Mali JNS Survey in 2014, 30% of Malians have experienced one or more problems in the past 4 years, and those people who reported one or more problems, had to deal with 2,15 problems on average in those 4 years. Peculiarly, only 4% brought their case to a paralegal and yet another 25% didn’t take any action. These numbers are expected to change once the Dashboard is accessible. Once launched, people own the chance to read and watch justice stories, similar to that of their own, and will become informed and empowered. Drawing from these percentages there is a pressing need for access to justice and information for all.
The Dashboard will be launched and deployed on the web in early 2017. A formal announcement has yet to follow, so stay tuned!