After Smiles Coveted Village Courts
In line with ensuring good governance, efficient and stable justice sector is indeed inevitable. In this context, Bangladesh is under tremendous pressure with much workload and inadequate number of officials and staff to dispose the cases. Consequently, the case backlogs add up to the existing pending cases and at present it stands on about two million cases. It creates a negative impact for the rural poor and vulnerable group of people who cannot afford the expenses of cases and do not have clear understanding of how to get access to justice in the upper courts on some issues that could be easily resolved at the local level. In this backdrop, Local Government Division (LGD), Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (MoGRDC) has initiated a project BGD/07/007 ‘Activating Village Courts Project in Bangladesh’ with the partnership of UNDP and European Union (EU) Bangladesh. The project supports in strengthening the justice system through activating Village Courts in 350 selected Union Parishads (UP) in the country. It also intends to develop capacity of the Village Courts (VC) members, elected representatives and other relevant officials in a bid to run the VCs smoothly. It also carries out comprehensive advocacy activities to involve the community and other key stakeholders actively in efforts to activating the Village Courts through enhancing their awareness on legal rights and overall justice system.
The project aims at strengthening a system of alternative dispute resolution in 350 Union Parishads (UP) through the establishment of village courts. It intends to improve access to justice for disadvantaged and marginalized groups and enhance human rights systems and processes in Bangladesh. Specific
- To empower women, the poor and disadvantaged groups to seek remedies for injustices, and to enable justice institutions to be responsive to claims
- To promote and protect human rights security through a human rights-based approach to development in programming and delivery
- To empower citizens to resolve their disputes at the local level in an expeditious, transparent and affordable manner
- To strengthen local government institutions to be responsive to local needs and offer approach legal service through well-functioning Village Courts
Review of Legal Framework Component
The existing legal framework is the Village Courts Act 2006, which describes the function of a Village Court, its jurisdiction and formation process. This Act was formulated in order to resolve applicable disputes quickly and easily within the jurisdiction of the UP. The Review of Legal Framework Component is a key component of the Project and works to review existing legal framework of VC. Under this component, the main activities are necessary assessments, consultations, advocacy seminars and policy dialogues with relevant stakeholders, both at national and local level. These activities facilitate the review and amendment process and create wider awareness about the benefits of Village Courts in regards to accessing local justice services and improving the overall human rights situation in the country. The Project also assesses the justice service delivery to disadvantaged groups.
Capacity Development Component
The capacity development of UP representatives, UP staff and Village Police is one of the major objectives of the Project. To build the capacity of these groups, the Project takes a two-pronged implementation strategy. The first strategy focuses on centralized and long-term capacity development interventions, such as developing training manuals and materials, conducting Training-of-Trainer (ToT) sessions, integration of Village Courts issues in the curricula of Government training institutes, and developing knowledge products and materials. The second approach focuses on operational capacity development interventions, such as providing capacity development training to all UP representatives, UP staff, Village Police and qualified citizens in the Project’s operational areas. The Project works to develop partnerships with different GoB training institutes, such as BCSAA, BPATC, JATI, NILG, Police Academy (PA) and Police Staff College, to integrate VC issues into their respective curricula and to organise regular training sessions on VC issues.
Advocacy and Communications Component
Raising awareness about the role and function of Village Courts is an important objective of the AVCB Project. The Project conducts a comprehensive awareness raising and sensitization programme on legal rights, both at local and national levels. The Project uses advocacy tools, such as dialogues, workshops, seminars, theatre, community mobilization, and networking, to raise awareness among target groups about the role and function of Village Courts and their importance in ensuring access to justice for the poor and vulnerable. The Project conducts motivational campaigns among community based organizations, school teachers, religious leaders, and youth groups and encourages them to disseminate knowledge about VCs to a wider public in order to promote access to justice. The Project also works with the media, organizing information seminars for journalists at national and local levels. This set of activities plays a pivotal role in enhancing the understanding of Government officials, NGOs, civil society, UP representatives and officials, communities, judicial officials and policy makers about Village Courts.
Monitoring and Evaluation Component
There are two streams of M&E in the Project. The first is focused on institutional monitoring, and aims to enhance the monitoring and supervision function within the LGD of the MoLGLR&C. The second focuses on the Project, to monitor the field-level implementation of Project activities and assess the changes brought about by the Project.