Access to justice is more than improving an individual’s access to courts or guaranteeing legal representation. Access to justice is defined as the ability of people to seek and obtain a remedy through formal or informal institutions of justice for grievances in compliance with human rights standards. There is no access to justice where citizens (especially marginalized groups) fear the system, see it as alien, and do not access it; where the justice system is financially inaccessible; where individuals have no lawyers; where they do not have information or knowledge of rights; or where there is a weak justice system. Access to justice involves normative legal protection, legal awareness, legal aid and counsel, adjudication, enforcement, and civil society oversight. Access to justice supports sustainable peace by affording the population a more attractive alternative to violence in resolving personal and political disputes.
KMDF strategy for Access to Justice will focus on the following;
Advocacy and Public Awareness
KMDF research shows that only 22% of vulnerable people in Kabale District in General and Kabale Municipality in particular understand their legal rights and government entitlements. This means that countless women and men are unaware of their rights under the law. Improving access to justice for low-income communities is often a low priority item on the agenda of Uganda. The urban poor are usually unable to access entitlements and exercise their basic legal rights, such as accessing courts and social services (like health, sanitation, and education) and exercising the right to own property. This can be attributed to lack of proper education and awareness. As a result, the urban poor are excluded from the legal discourse, denying them the opportunity to improve their lives, and thereby hampering the country's development.
During the period 2016-2021, KMDF will work to improve practical knowledge of the people through public awareness activities to ensure that vulnerable people are aware of their legal rights, better understand the remedies available to them, and know how to access the institutions responsible for guaranteeing that their rights are protected. To achieve this,
- KMDF will develop a fundraising strategy to raise financial resources through grants and donations to conduct public awareness campaigns that will provide information to vulnerable groups about their rights and government entitlements.
- KMDF will establish a free legal clinic to provide free legal services to vulnerable members of society in Kabale Municipality.
- KMDF will also establish close partnership with different civil society organizations to better advocate on behalf of the vulnerable groups in Kabale Municipality.
Improving Legal Services
Only 12% of the vulnerable people in Kabale Municipality have access to the formal justice system. To bridge this gap, KMDF will support efforts that will make a difference, in the long term, to the lives of poor people by raising awareness of their legal rights and by providing them the means by which they can secure redress to rights and social justice. This will be done by
- Establishing legal aid centers in each parish for the provision of free legal advice and information for poor people in Kabale Municipality
- Ensuring that poor people have access to advice and information about their legal rights and the opportunity to seek redress;
- Establish partnerships with development partners and support efforts for strengthening networking with legal aid providers in Uganda
- Enhancing awareness and practical understanding of human rights laws and standards through research, training and sharing of good practices.
Creation of Village Mediation teams
Community mediators play a significant role in the administration of justice and resolution of disputes. The Government of Uganda has put in place strategies to provide access to justice for its indigent and citizens. Despite efforts by the government and the courts, such as providing pro bono legal services, the state continues to struggle in its pursuit. What is often overlooked, however, is how mediation provides the courts and litigants an affordable, efficient option to resolving many disputes. During the period 2016-2021,
- KMDF will work on creating mediation teams in each of the Villages of Kabale Municipality. Mediation team members will be trained in civil and criminal law and procedure in order to provide legal advice to suspects or accused persons who are brought before the informal justice system. Mediators will be provided with legal knowledge on relevant Ugandan laws which will help them to execute their mandate.
- KMDF will lobby for funds from development Partners to support training programmes in conflict resolution, human rights Monitoring and advocacy to enable Community mediators play their role in efficient and effective manner
- KMDF will support Legal awareness campaigns conducted by Community Mediators at a grassroots level or through the media