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FOCUS March 2013 Volume Vol. 71

Northeast Asia Training on Human Rights-based Approach to Access to Justice


The Northeast Asian member-institutions1 of the Asian Consortium for Human Rights- based Access to Justice (HRBA2J-Asia) held on 8-9 November 2012 in Ulaanbaatar their first training workshop for representatives of institutions in Northeast Asia involved in the access to justice field.
The training workshop was meant to promote the human rights-based approach to access to justice in the context of each of the countries in the subregion. It was also the initial training activity of the Northeast Asian member-institutions that involved institutions deemed to have the appropriate program for promoting and applying the human rights-based approach to access to justice (HRBA2J).


Training Needs Assessment

Prior to the training, the organizers surveyed the training needs of the eight confirmed participants from China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. Though the survey was not able to cover many non-Mongolian invitees, the responses nevertheless provided important input in finalizing the training program.
The analysis of the survey results revealed the following:

a. Profile of participants - most respondents were engaged in legal service, education and research work; and all of them were working full-time in their respective organizations
b. Knowledge of human rights – almost all (seven respondents) had human rights training (of various types); most learned HRBA2J in such training or learned about it through research, publication and other activities
c. Application of HRBA2J – most respondents had the chance to apply HRBA2J in various ways (litigation, education, policy advocacy, project implementation, research, law reform advocacy, United Nations [UN] advocacy, assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons [IDPs])
d. Training needs – despite the above background of the respondents, they listed the following topics as training needs:

• HRBA2J concept
• Access to justice strategies and methods
• Best practice/application of HRBA2J
• Evaluation of impact of HRBA2J
• Regional network on HRBA2J

e. Training offerings – the respondents provided what they can offer to the workshop

• Law practice on cases of vulnerable groups
• Good experiences on HRBA2J
• Women's rights
• International human rights law advocacy
• Participatory training method
• Experiences in their own organization
• Management of HRBA2J organization
• Experience as UN staff (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia [UNTAC])

f. HRBA2J network – most respondents did not distinguish the national network of HRBA2J from the subregional one when asked who would likely be appropriate members of HRBA2J. They listed the following individuals and institutions as possible members for Northeast Asia HRBA2J network (either national or subregional):

Social workers; people in the field of law, psychology, sociology; non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on access to justice; public interest lawyers; law firms/Bar associations and their networks; law enforcement organizations; judicial institutions ; policymakers, Ministries of Justice; clinical legal education organizations; human rights networks; legal groups working on disadvantaged sectors; national human rights institutions (NHRIs); human rights-related government offices; academic institutions

g. Knowledge of HRBA2J groups – most respondents (six) know of institutions involved in the application of HRBA2J. They listed the following: PI DLI , environmental organizations, a NHRI, Asian Human Rights Commission, Asia-Pacific Refugee Rights Network, Global Network of Public Interest Law Institutions, and the Structural Alternative Legal Assistance for the Grassroots.

The draft training objectives and program were adjusted in view of the results of the training needs analysis. The session on human rights principles was deleted. In a sense, this converted the focus of the training workshop to human rights practice, instead of understanding human rights principles. The main interest was more on learning from actual experiences in applying HRBA2J.

Training Objectives, Program and Participants

The objectives of the Northeast Asia Training Workshop were as follows:

a. To train representatives of invited institutions in the subregion on human rights- based approach to access to justice (HRBA2J)
b. To undertake national-level promotion of HRBA2J using existing opportunities in Mongolia.

The workshop relied much on the contribution of the participants in various sessions, namely,

• Session I - Defining Contexts and Challenges - Brainstorming session
• Session II – Integrating Human Rights into Access to Justice – Group work and presentation
• Session III - How can the human rights standards be applied as an approach to access to justice work? - Group work and presentation
• Session IV – Practicum – presentation of different country experiences on public interest litigation, and dialogue between Mongolian participants and the participants from other countries.

The Northeast Asia training workshop involved representatives of member- institutions as well as invited institutions in the four countries. Majority of the participants were from Mongolia. There could have been more participants from other Northeast Asian countries if not for budgetary limitations.
Many of the participants were lawyers working in various capacities: staffmembers of legal assistance organizations or of public interest law organizations, and professors. There were also staffmembers of human rights centers, NHRI, NGOs, judicial body, and a government agency.
The Mongolian participants were actively involved in the workshop activities. They represented governmental and non-governmental institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Justice.

Training Presentations and Discussions

The different group presentations revealed a variety of ideas on how human rights and HRBA2J were being applied. They also revealed a number of issues in Northeast Asia including those affecting migrant workers (domestic and foreign), environmental problems, judicial system, problems of marginalized groups, etc.
The session on public interest litigation was rich in terms of presentation of experiences from China, Japan and South Korea. A major issue was on locus standi of groups or organizations (such as NGOs offering legal assistance to grassroots communities) in pursuing court cases affecting communities. In Mongolia, the rule on locus standi does not allow NGOs to represent cases in court involving local communities without the communities themselves being the litigants. Problems occur when the communities decide to withdraw their complaints, leaving the issues involved unresolved.
While the main language in the training workshop was English, the local host, Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), was very effective in facilitating the translation of presentations before the training sessions, and the discussions during the sessions. The translation work allowed the Mongolian participants to participate fully in the training.
The training presentations and discussions helped participants challenges in advancing justice and human rights issues across the Northeast Asian subregion, as well as on the application of the human rights based approach to access to justice in the context of the subregion.
The training workshop also emphasized the importance of institutions undertaking self-evaluation of their own activities and programs and critically thinking of ways to improve their work from the perspective of the human rights- based approach.

Further Training

The training needs analysis as well as the discussions during the training workshop provide areas for HRBA2J-Asia work in Northeast Asia:

- More specific training on litigation tactics and good practices on legal service - Human rights-based approach to development (particularly on business and human rights)
- Focused training for specific groups (NGO and government officers, lawyers, paralegals, etc.). 

The promotion of HRBA2J requires continuing engagement with institutions involved in access to justice work or relate to delivery of justice in general. HRBA2J presents an opportunity for discussing human rights from a practical perspective. It can help mainstream the use of international human rights standards in government and judicial systems.
The lessons from the Northeast Asia training workshop point to the need to assess existing access to justice programs and activities, and to develop ways of improving them by applying HRBA2J.
To be able to achieve the employment of HRBA2J in the justice systems, training is necessary.

For more information, please contact HURIGHTS OSAKA.


1. Current member-institutions of HRBA2J-Asia in Northeast Asia:

- Public Interest and Development Law Institute (PIDLI) - China
- Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group (GONG- GAM) - Korea
- MINBYUN - Lawyers for a Democratic Society - Korea
- Asia Pacific Human Rights Information Center (HURIGHTS OSAKA) - Japan
- NPO Human Security Forum - Japan
- Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
– Mongolia.

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