A Celebration of International Pro Bono: Facilitating Cross-Sector Collaboration to Achieve Lasting Change

27 November 2019
A4ID’s ROLE UK Programme recently brought more than 60 stakeholders from across the legal, judicial, government and development sectors together for ‘A Celebration of International Pro Bono’. The evening showcased the successes of a selection of international pro bono partnerships facilitated by the ROLE UK Programme, with speakers from  Allen & Overy LLP, Strengthening Families for Abandoned Children (SFAC), the Judicial Office of England and Wales and iProbono. A highlight of National Pro Bono Week, this dynamic event was hosted in partnership with Allen & Overy LLP on 5 November 2019.
The event opened with a welcome from Allen & Overy Partner and Chair of their Human Rights Working Group, Andrew Denny, who stressed that the current political challenges in the US and UK served as a reminder of the necessity to strengthen the rule of law across the globe. Denny’s opening was followed by words from A4ID Chief Executive Yasmin Batliwala and ROLE UK Programme Manager Naomi Barnard, who explored the potential of cross-sector collaboration to uphold the rule of law. Barnard explained that “without active participation from the international legal community working in partnership with the international development community, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be realised”. In facilitating cross-sector collaboration, legal and developmental stakeholders are able to work towards the strengthening of legal frameworks and help achieve universal access to justice.
With the aim to coordinate different rule of law actors and strengthen partnerships for the provision of impactful pro bono legal assistance in developing countries, the speakers’ thought-provoking pechakucha©-style presentations were broken up with regular opportunities for guests to network and discuss potential opportunities for collaboration. After each presentation participants were asked to discuss and respond to a variety of questions.
The first audience discussion involved an examination of the greatest challenges to legal reform and how these barriers can be addressed. The different backgrounds of participants on each table ensured a holistic response. Discussions ranged from the challenges linked to a lack of funding for legal reform to the resistance to legal reform experienced by some participants in the face of socio-cultural norms, and how these issues could potentially be mitigated through multi-stakeholder partnerships. 
Protect, Respect & Remedy: A Focus on Business & Human Rights 
Allen & Overy Senior Associate, Elizabeth Staves, kick-started the pechakucha©-style presentations by highlighting the Business and Human Rights training that the firm had carried out in collaboration with A4ID, the East Africa Law Society and the Uganda Law Society. 
Staves noted that rural communities in Uganda, comprised primarily of farmers (69%), rely heavily on the land and other natural resources for their livelihoods. As a result, their cultural heritage is inherently tied to the environment in which they exist, causing friction between these local groups and mining industries that sought to utilise their land. This friction has led to hostility and violence between the local Ugandan communities and the security forces employed by the mining groups, which has been compounded by the gross exploitation of mine employees forced to work in poor conditions for little pay. 
In order to combat the fragile situation in rural Uganda, Allen & Overy conducted a training session with local Ugandan lawyers. The training was based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which frame Business and Human Rights around three defining pillars:
  • The state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties
  • The corporate responsibility to respect human rights
  • The need for greater access by victims to effective remedy
Staves highlighted the need to form strategic partnerships with government agencies and business groups in order to develop a culture of respect for human rights that protects the most vulnerable individuals and appropriately understands the context within which businesses are operating. Elizabeth closed with the crucial note that “Businesses need to view human rights, not as a burden but as a necessity to conduct themselves more sustainably,” an integral point for the fulfilment of the Business and Human Rights guidelines.
Strategic Partnerships for Policy Reform
SFAC’s Dan Hope, Ruth Sharon and Ranjit Uppal focused their presentation on the organisation’s work regarding children’s rights in Paraguay’s foster care system, funded by the ROLE UK Programme. Drawing upon their experiences in Paraguay, SFAC summarised that the vast majority of the children that they had encountered expressed that they simply wanted a good home and family – something that many of us take for granted. As a result of these findings, SFAC sought to address the current rule of law issues that inhibit this.
The three presenters explained that a multidisciplinary, top-down and bottom-up approach was the most effective way to address child rights violations and deliver a comprehensive remedy that transforms good intentions into solid actions. This involves working personally with the Paraguayan government and judiciary to reform legislation, in addition to also working with grassroots movements like local NGOs, civil society and donors.
In Paraguay, a team of SFAC’s legal and social work experts provided local childcare professionals and legal stakeholders with training on best practice for child protection, family support and domestic adoption and foster care resulting in the development of policies to strengthen existing mechanisms for protecting children. To ensure the continuation of their work in this field, SFAC have been commissioned to draft advisory guidelines for judges that will cover best practice in court proceedings for child protection in care. 
“One of the biggest challenges to legal reform is changing perceptions for sustainable, long-term change!” – a participant during the table discussions
SFAC’s insightful presentation was followed by Grace Karrass, International Strategy Adviser for the Judicial Office of England and Wales, who documented the work that the Judiciary have carried out in The Gambia in collaboration with the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (SIFoCC) and The Gambian Judiciary. 
In 2017, after a 23-year long dictatorial rule in The Gambia, Chief Justice Hassan Jallow sought help with judicial reform from external partners. Consequently, SIFoCC and the Judiciary of England & Wales carried out a range of assignments funded by the ROLE UK Programme, which aimed to strengthen The Gambia’s judicial system to accommodate an emerging democratic regime. With The Gambia’s plans to rejoin the Commonwealth in February 2018, they sought to form a collaborative partnership with both the judiciary of England & Wales and SIFoCC to establish best practice for their legislative bodies at the highest levels. 
With the aid of ROLE UK and SIFoCC, the Judiciary of England and Wales was able to produce a magistrates training programme centred around capacity building activities that covered sentencing guidelines for theft, judicial ethics and training of trainers. SIFoCC also facilitated the establishment of partnerships with other NGOs, including The Gambia’s Prison Fellowship, the Africa Prisons’ Project (APP) and the International Law Book Facility (IBLF). 
The feedback from Chief Justice Hassan Jallow was overwhelmingly positive, signifying potential areas for further collaboration between the parties involved. With the end of this assignment, ROLE UK has aided in the strengthening of The Gambia’s criminal justice system and augmented their capacity to fully enforce the rule of law. 
Analyse, Articulate, Act & Adapt
ROLE UK’s Technical Expert, Adrienne Joy, then spoke about the Programme’s four-tier approach to complex developmental issues – the four A’s – Analyse, Articulate, Act and Adapt. This approach ensures pro bono legal actors undertake the necessary contextual analysis before implementing any pro bono projects; effectively deliver the intended activities; monitor the results of their intervention; and address any identified issues to maximise impact of their work. 
To illustrate this, iProbono’s South Asia Regional Director, Mariam Faruqi detailed the work that the organisation had done with the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice (LAPSOJ) in partnership with the ROLE UK Programme on achieving economic and social justice in Nepal, using the 4 A’s as a guiding framework. Mariam recounted that in order to address Nepal’s existing rule of law issues, it was first necessary to analyse the economic, social and cultural rights outlined in the country’s new constitution, considering the relevant intersections, for example, Nepal’s Buddhist identity and existing class and gender discrimination. Prior knowledge of Nepal’s context was integral, particularly in this case, where the legislative and political climate was in a process of amendment. 
iProbono and LAPSOJ then provided training sessions to local lawyers in strategic areas, fulfilling the model’s second component, articulate, by strengthening the capacities of legal professionals so that they are equipped to enact these legislative reforms. Following this, iProbono took the findings from their endeavours to enable them to produce more South-to-South learning partnerships, allowing legal stakeholders to sustain these practices and implement them – or act – across local regions. 
Finally, iProbono and LAPSOJ used evaluation methods to deduce how effective their approach was in universalising economic, social and cultural rights so that they can adapt this in future.
Collaborating for Sustainable Impact
A Celebration of International Pro Bono brought the ROLE UK Programme’s partners together to share their own stories of overseas pro bono work, to cultivate further collaboration and amplify the importance of development-focused pro bono initiatives. In doing so, the event reflected the Programme’s hopes to highlight the importance of peer-to-peer learning, open knowledge exchange and sharing of best practice in pursuit of the SDGs.

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