Members and clients of TCDN share their experience in combatting TIP with PRLP personnel.
Trafficking in persons (TIP) is a reality that many vulnerable people in Myanmar face, especially along the border with Thailand. Many people, seeking legitimate jobs, cross the border only to find themselves caught up in a criminal enterprise. Thwee Community Development Network (TCDN), through a grant from Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), is combatting TIP through awareness raising activities, protection measures, and victim support services in Myawaddy Township.
One of their clients, Aye Aye Than*, spent nine years working illegally in a factory in Thailand for a promised salary of $225 per month, which was seldom paid in full. She often worked from 1 a.m. to 8 p.m. and was beaten for being sleepy at work. Aye Aye Than values the information and assistance provided by TCDN, which focuses on the same situations she experienced. After TCDN training, she now shares information about safe migration, problems faced by illegal workers, and procedures for traveling legally to young people who are seeking to migrate. Aye Aye Than said, “If I had received this kind of training before, I would have avoided the troubles I faced in Thailand. I don’t want other people to suffer like me, so I share what I learned from the training to young people in my village.”
Another client, Moe Kaung*, was exploited by being sold from one broker to another. After being transported to various locations at night and hid in the daytime, he was sold to work on a fishing boat, which was continuously guarded. Moe Kaung, was held as a prisoner, never being allowed to leave the boat even when in port. He is now an active volunteer in his community, sharing information about TIP and human rights. Moe Kaung said, “Today in my village, people are more informed and more prepared about working in Thailand. They know how to protect themselves from being exploited.”
TCDN is collaborating with various government officials and community organizations to protect victims and provide services such as counseling and safe houses. They conduct advocacy meetings and workshops with township level government officials and distribute awareness raising materials. Also, they conducted a commemoration of the signing of the Myanmar Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, bringing together the community and government to discuss how to best assist victims and protect others from falling prey to this abuse. With support from PRLP, TCDN continues to provide a more inclusive and responsive approach to addressing human rights abuses.
* Represents fake names to protect the individuals who have told their stories.
First nursery registration completed online using the new e-service on the MOSD web portal on February 8, 2018
On February 8, 2018, Mr. Abdullah Al-Khatib became the first beneficiary of the Nursery Center Registration e-Service at the Ministry of Social Development (MOSD) West Amman Directorate. The new e-service, developed with support from Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Rule of Law Program (ROLP), significantly streamlines the process for citizens who would like to open a nursery center for business. Mr. Al-Khatib remarked, “I was thrilled by the fast response of this user-friendly system while completing the required information. It provides the full requirements list for registering a nursery center, applicant eligibility criteria, and instructions to upload documents on the web portal. Not only is the registration process easier, but the public has better access to information by providing registration requirements in a centralized place on the internet.”
The Nursery Center Registration e-Service offers many improvements to prospective applicants. First, it serves as an online hub for all requisite approvals from the involved government entities, including the Civil Defense Directorate, Greater Amman Municipality, Ministry of Health Ministry of Public Works and Housing, and Municipalities. Prior to the development of this e-service, Jordanian citizens and other service beneficiaries had to visit each public entity involved in their business registration for written approvals, a process requiring an enormous amount of time and effort. Second, the e-service system accelerates the registration process by providing fill-in data options. Mr. Al-Khatib shared that when he entered his national ID number, the system automatically recognized him and auto-filled much of his personal data, which saved him time in completing his application.
Third, a user can assign a delegate to assist with completing the application if the user resides outside of Jordan or cannot continue to follow on the registration process for any reason. In Mr. Al-Khatib’s case, this functionality provided great benefit to him. He marveled, “I’m delighted that during my time in Saudi Arabia, my younger brother, who I assigned as a delegate, was able to follow up on any missing information and documents for the application. I also could track the status of my application completion and submission on the MOSD’s web portal remotely from Saudi Arabia.”
At the beginning of 2017, the MOSD, with ROLP’s support, initiated the development of an integrated web portal that will include numerous e-services for the public alongside the Nursery Center Registration. The overall aim is to strengthen the MOSD’s performance, accountability, and public service delivery by transitioning from a largely manual, paper system to a modern, automated one.
The Code of Ethics meets international standards and helps set guidelines of conduct for Public Prosecutors
To improve transparency and accountability in Public Prosecution work, Tetra Tech’s INL-funded Justice Sector Assistance Project (JSAP) supported the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to develop and implement a Prosecutor’s Code of Ethics (COE) that meets international standards. The code addresses the independence and impartiality of prosecutors, professional behavior, rights of suspects, and conflicts of interest. JSAP provided an international consultant to work with an AGO-appointed Code of Ethics Committee to refine and finalize articles of the code. Upon official approval by Attorney General Ahmad Barrack, the project conducted a Training of Trainers (ToT) for COE committee members so they can in turn effectively conduct awareness dissemination sessions on the code for all Public Prosecutors across the West Bank.
The first COE awareness session was held in Ramallah on January 28, 2018 with the participation of 28 Prosecutors and was facilitated by COE committee members. Addressing the session, the Attorney General thanked JSAP for support in this area and highlighted the importance of adhering to the Code of Ethics, which sets out the standards of conduct and practice expected from Prosecutors to enhance the accountability process. “This code meets our current and future needs,” stated the Attorney General who stressed that ethical conduct is just as important as technical and legal skills of prosecutors. Also addressing the session, JSAP’s Chief of Team, Emery Adoradio, noted, “Part of the challenge is to know when there is an ethical issue. Our exercises today will help spot these issues as there is actual impropriety and then there is the appearance of impropriety. Appearance of impropriety is as important as actual impropriety.”
Prosecutors taking part in this session have largely hailed the importance of the COE and awareness sessions. “This was one of the most important sessions that I have taken part in, and it is a must that all Public Prosecutors take part in these sessions to learn more about items that are punishable by law and the actions of prosecutors— to see what is allowed and what is prohibited. Through this session we also learned to pay attention to some behaviors that may be ordinary but show an appearance of impropriety,” stated Majdi Qurei, a Public Prosecutor in Jericho.
Mahmoud Abdel Karim, a Public Prosecutor in Ramallah, also stated: “This session was an added value for me on both a personal and professional level. The session helped clarify key issues related to prejudice on the job and exploitation of the position to achieve personal gains as well as how to ensure respect for human rights and protection of public freedoms.”
In coordination with the AGO, JSAP will facilitate a total of six awareness sessions that will be held in various geographic areas across the West Bank.
Citizens provided first-hand accounts of their experience with corruption and bribery to highlight the impact on an individual’s human rights and help participants understand the wide-ranging ramifications.
Every year, $1 trillion is paid in bribes and an estimated $2.6 trillion is stolen annually through corruption worldwide, representing more than 5% per cent of global GDP. Corruption undermines democracy, governance, and human rights. In Myanmar, the effects of corruption are acutely felt by indigenous populations and women. Their geographic and social exclusion results in a lack of access to legal protections that are only compounded by the effects of corruption.
The Access to Justice Initiative (A2JI), with support from Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), is working to address these challenges in Myanmar. A2JI, a consortium of more than 40 civil society organizations, is advocating for structural and policy reforms, including a focus on combatting corruption. In addition to regular awareness and training activities, A2JI conducted two events in recognition of International Anti-Corruption Day on Dec. 9th. This year’s theme was United Against Corruption for Development, Peace, and Security.
PRLP and A2JI conducted a panel discussion with 87 participants, bringing together civil society, Members of Parliament (MPs), and government officials. Panelists included the Chief Minister of Magway Region, MPs from the Hluttaw and Yangon Region, representatives from the Yangon Regional Rule of Law Coordination Body, and other regional officials. Citizens provided concrete examples of their experience with corruption in Myanmar and panelists discussed corruption issues, particularly in the justice sector, and took questions from the audience. This event sought to build connections between CSOs and the government and to provide a forum for advocacy against corrupt practices.
A2JI also conducted a public awareness raising event in Mahabandula Park, which included interactive games, a quiz show, entertainment, informational materials, and releasing balloons with slogans about combatting corruption. More than 250 people participated in the event, which was opened by U Maung Hla, Director General from the Anti-Corruption Commission. A Member of Parliament, Daw Kyi Pyar, and the A2JI Chair, U Nyi Aung, provided remarks to encourage citizens to take an active role in combatting corruption. These activities are building the capacity of CSOs to engage in public policy development and advocacy, as well as to promote more accountable justice sector institutions that protect human rights.
A2JI members participate in training of trainers, increasing their capacity to raise awareness and promote advocacy in their communities
The Access to Justice Initiative (A2JI), with support from Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), is working to combat corruption in Myanmar. A2JI, a consortium of more than 40 civil society organizations, is advocating for structural and policy reforms, including a focus on combatting corruption. Corruption, including bribes and stolen resources, amounts to an estimated 5% of the global gross domestic product, with developing countries losing up to 50% of public revenue to the “shadow economy.” Corruption undermines democracy, governance, and human rights, and perpetuates the inequities experienced by women, poor, and indigenous populations.
As a follow up to their recent roundtable discussions with Parliamentarians and two events on International Anti-Corruption Day, PRLP supported A2JI’s intention to roll out a series of trainings on community engagement against corruption with a training of trainers (TOT) for 13 focal points and steering committee members. A2JI members from various locations including Shan, Mandalay, Mawlamyaing, Rakhine, Taninthayi, Rangon, and Bagoee completed the 3-day TOT, led by an international expert, in January 2018. The training explored forms of corruption defined in the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and in the Myanmar context, examining recent reforms as well as gaps in the current legislative framework. Participants also learned how corruption disparately impacts women and other underserved segments of society, and developed approaches to promoting citizen engagement in combatting corruption.
Participants further learned how to strategically design and implement trainings that help citizens recognize corruption and motivate them to resist it through various approaches. Using a variety of hypothetical situations, participants developed a more nuanced understanding of corruption, distinguishing intentional abuse of power with inadvertent errors by public officials, legal loopholes, and how to adapt their responses to achieve the most productive and lasting solutions. Participants discussed techniques such as refusing to pay bribes and reporting incidents of corruption, conducting public information and/or advocacy campaigns, participating in public hearings, and promoting transparency through monitoring.
The TOT resulted in a model curriculum that the A2JI focal points can deliver in their respective regions, building society’s capacity to fight corruption, engage in public policy development, and promote more accountable justice sector institutions that protect human rights.
The Judicial Strategic Plan focuses on 5 strategic action areas: Facilitate and expand public access to court services; Promote public awareness; Enhance judicial independence and administrative capacity; Promote and ensure the professionalism, accountability and integrity of the Judiciary; Promote efficient case management and court specialization.
The Office of the Supreme Court of the Union (OSCU) in Myanmar launched their five-year Judicial Strategic Plan on January 30, 2018. With support from Tetra Tech’s, USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), the OSCU utilized a consultative process to develop the JSP, building on their previous 3-year plan, with a theme of “Towards Improving Justice for All.” In a launch event held in Nap Pyi Taw, the leadership of the OSCU explained the process of developing the strategy, the action areas, and targets for improving justice services to the public. To increase transparency, the OSCU conducted a press conference before the launch and engaged media organizations and participants in a question and answer session during the event.
The OSCU appointed a planning team, which reviewed progress of the 2015-2017 plan before embarking on the new JSP. The team also reviewed court performance, including customer surveys and closed case data compiled by PRLP, as well as other statistics. The OSCU conducted consultations with stakeholders, other courts, civil society organizations, and international experts. The planning team conducted regular drafting meetings to systematically develop the components of the JSP. The final draft was presented to international donors for input on their technical and financial assistance. After revisions and approval from the Chief Justice, the JSP was launched to the public.
The presentation outlined the vision, mission, and values for the courts. The vision is to provide the highest quality of justice for all, promote public trust and confidence in the courts, and achieve effective rule of law. Tasks are ranked by priority for timing of implementation. Targets include a 100% clearance rate, reducing criminal cases pending more than 1 year by 5% and civil cases pending more than 3 years by 2%, reducing postponement rates by 20% in criminal cases, and reducing postponement rates by 12% in civil cases. The OSCU also set a goal for 80% customer satisfaction. The JSP seeks to promote the rule of law, foster regional peace, enhance public trust and integrity, and to adjudicate cases fairly and efficiently in accordance with the law.
PRLP provided both technical and material support to the development of the JSP and the accompanying 2018 action plan. Offering international best practices to develop goals and activities, PRLP helped ensure a plan that is comprehensive, yet practical. While this is the culmination of the strategy development process, it is only the beginning of implementing the activities that are designed to improve the delivery of justice sector for the country. PRLP will continue their ongoing support to achieve and maintain gains in the judicial sector that have increased efficiency, improved the image of the courts, and built the capacity of judicial personnel.
Mocho Citizens’ Association Livestock Farming Project is making a difference
The farming community of Mocho, Clarendon has a long history of supplying Jamaica with its agricultural products. In recent years, however, with the increasing impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, many farmers in Mocho have been reduced to subsistence farming.
The Mocho Citizens’ Association is looking to turn things around for small farmers in Mocho by helping farmers invest in livestock farming, which is less susceptible to the harsh fluctuations brought on by climate change. Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Community Empowerment and Transformation Project II (COMET II) awarded the association a grant to support their social enterprise, which allowed the organization to launch their project in early 2017.
Moreover, Development Manager for the Mocho Citizens’ Association, Al El, believes social enterprises can propel sustainable livelihoods for small farmers in Mocho. He reckons that, “the effort has given farmers a more sustainable way forward. With the support of our project, we are making our farmers better-rounded”.
The project involves training livestock farmers, providing them with chickens or pigs, and giving them initial feed for the animals. To date, 38 small farmers, ranging from 18-70 years old, have received livestock from the organization and additional training through COMET II’s project partner, the Rural Agriculture Development Agency (RADA).
The aim, El explains, is for local farmers to earn enough profits to be able to give back to the association, a key feature of the association’s social enterprise model. From the onset, farmers commit to returning a portion of their profits in order for the association to use those funds to support and train other farmers.
Already 90% of the poultry farmers have returned their committed amounts to the organization, proving that the model is working.
Thirty-year old Kevaughn Golding, a poultry farmer who operates his coop in his backyard, has sold more than 150 pounds of chicken since April 2017, and has returned 15% of his sales to the association. Golding says he strategically targeted a private school in the parish capital, May Pen, and it has become his primary market.
MLAA is providing legal advice, mediation, and court representation for vulnerable populations in the Ayeyarwady region, as well as raising awareness and advocating to protect human rights and promote the rule of law.
When Aung Moe*, a 14-year old disabled boy in a remote village, was charged with robbery, the Mahawthada Legal Aid Association (MLAA) stepped in to protect his human rights. Aung Moe had been jailed without bail for two months and was facing a prison sentence when the MLAA lawyers filed a petition with the court on July 20, 2017. He was released on bail on August 1st. After further investigation and support from the legal aid lawyers, the judge found that Aung Moe, who was born with malformation of his arms, was not guilty. With support from MLAA, the young boy avoided a criminal record and further violation of his rights.
MLAA is a civil society organization working in the Ayeyarwady region to protect the human rights of local citizens and to increase legal literacy. The Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) awarded a grant to MLAA, allowing its lawyers to provide free legal aid services, conduct awareness raising activities, and advocate for the rule of law.
MLAA has also supported farmers and local citizens in land rights cases. The legal aid lawyers were successful in gaining review of a decision denying local villagers access to farm land that had been abandoned by the government. The MLAA lawyers analyzed the facts, collected documents from farmers, and interviewed witnesses. They filed a complaint with the Ayeyarwady Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Breeding and Irrigation. In response, the Minister organized a commission to review the case. The chairman of the district land management office visited the area and collected information for the re-adjudication of this matter. MLAA exposed a lack of transparency and failure to comply with legal requirements for public notice and response.
MLAA lawyers also represented Kyint*, a woman whose human rights were violated when she was wrongfully detained in jail for 18 days on criminal charges. Kyint alleged the charges were the result of police corruption. After MLAA filed a complaint with the Ayeyarwady Regional Ministry of Social and Security Affairs requesting investigation, two policemen were disciplined.
Grant funding and technical assistance from PRLP is building the practical skills of lawyers to assist vulnerable populations in obtaining justice. This assistance protects human rights by increasing awareness and access to justice. Local citizens are empowered to advocate for the rule of law and demand a fairer and efficient justice system in Myanmar.
Legal Services Improve for Persons with Disabilities at Amman Public Prosecution Department
Ahmad, a visually impaired 29 year old professional working at an IT company, recently spoke about his personal experience using the newly upgraded facilities at the Amman Public Prosecution Office (APPO) for people with disabilities (PWDs). “When I first used the Braille visual guidance boards to find my way through the waiting hall and different offices, I felt a great deal of independence to access legal services at APPO,” he recalls. “When I used to come to [the] Amman Palace of Justice and APPO, I faced very embarrassing moments when I had to ask people for assistance in direction. People would start giving directions to left and right, not considering that this was not helpful given my visual impairment. Now, with accessing the visual board using Braille method, I can move freely and independently to my required destination!”
According to a recent report titled, “Distribution of Private Households with Members Facing Difficulties in Body Functions Report”, there were an estimated 598,138 PWDs living in Jordan in 2015. This number comprised approximately 12% of the total Jordanian population. It is a segment of the population that scarcely benefits from legal services in Jordan. Of the 367,315 cases litigated in Jordan in 2015, less than 1% involved PWDs. This indicates that access to justice for PWDs is limited and should be subject to further investigation and support.
According to a Rule of Law Program (ROLP) study titled “Persons with Disabilities Access to Justice in Jordan”, there are currently no possible means to establish an accurate representation of persons with disabilities’ demand on the court system. However, there is strong evidence that such demand is limited for various reasons mentioned by the report-sampling PWDs group, including fear of stigma, fear of discrimination, expectations of inappropriate treatment, income, social situation, lack of accessibility, and accommodation limitations.
In response to the challenges and barriers within the court system, as provided by the ROLP study findings, USAID, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, considered accurate measures for improving facilities for PWDs at the Amman Palace of Justice (APOJ) and Public Prosecution Department. The improvement measures suggested sought to ensure that PWDs had access to the court system, information and communications, public facilities, and legal services. Improvements in these areas will also lead to accelerating the processing times for legal requests and procedures. Activities included installing over fifty Braille visual guidance boards for persons with visual impairment at the APPO and APOJ that provide access to information for required services, providing designated space for wheelchairs in the courtroom, renovating rest rooms that accommodate PWDs needs, case files in Braille method, and sign language interpretation.
Ahmad started spreading the good news of the new improvements at APOJ and APPO to other visually impaired people in his community, and encouraged them to come and try the new facilities when they need to access legal services. “I believe a great segment of the Jordanian community is served now and this will enhance their integration within the whole community,” said Ahmad.
ROLP, in cooperation with the MOJ, will continue its planned support to improve judicial capacity to address human rights cases and lack of access to justice on behalf of the disadvantaged populations by reengineering departments across Jordanian courts and adequately equipping them for meeting the needs of PWDs.
JCSDO supports access to justice by raising community awareness, providing survivor support and protection, offering free legal aid, and holding justice sector actors accountable.
Earlier this year, a thirteen-year-old girl was welcomed into a community safe house operated by Jeepyah Civil Society Development Organization (JCSDO), a grantee of Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP). The girl had been raped by a villager in the Mon region while her parents were outside the home performing casual labor. One of the women’s groups formed by JCSDO learned of her case and referred her to the safe house, where she received shelter and counseling and was supported to be a witness at the trial. Although the perpetrator received a 9-year sentence at hard labor, he managed to escape from the labor camp and was only recently re-arrested and sent to prison.
While the perpetrator was at large, the girl remained at the safe house for her protection and further counseling. She was illiterate, having left school after only a few years of instruction, but she was able to improve her education and learn practical life skills during her time at the safe house. Now, she is a volunteer at the Mon State Women and Children’s Upgrade Centre (MSWCUC) and is continuing to expand her education and skills so that she will be able to make a life for herself as an adult.
JCSDO is improving access to justice by engaging local communities, providing safe spaces, offering free legal aid, and working to hold justice sector actors accountable. The overall objective of the JCSDO grant is to increase legal literacy, access to justice, and the participation of marginalized populations, including victims/survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking in targeted regions/states. Their assistance includes training paralegals to provide free legal advice and referral services, and providing free legal aid/court representation to clients.
The safe house is providing shelter, basic needs, counseling services, and legal advice for up to 8 clients at a time. JCSDO expects to serve at least 24 clients during the one-year grant period. Additionally, JCSDO will publish a report of relevant access to justice challenges based on their experience in the region. The report will be in multiple languages and distributed to key justice stakeholders in Mon State to further advocacy efforts and encourage collaboration. These activities are supporting the goals of PRLP to increase access to justice, particularly for marginalized populations in target regions.