A PROJECT INTEGRATED WITHIN THE CHILD JUSTICE PROGRAMME OF THE GOVERNMENT
ACPF re-established the CLPC in 2012, in collaboration with the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia. The new CLPC aims at strengthening Government’s efforts to enhance the child justice administration and to create a sustainable child protection structure in the justice system.
The unique feature of the CLPC is that it works closely and in partnership with local and international partners and operates under government oversight. This particular feature of the CLPC is the major leverage that made its operation quite effective, through facilitating the referral system service delivery, speeding up children’s court cases and ensuring better enforcement of its legal counselling services.
Through its four branch offices provided by the three tiers of the Federal Judiciary - the Supreme Court, the High and First Instance Courts - the CLPC is providing comprehensive and effective services to children in contact with the justice system. The activities of the CLPC go beyond providing legal aid and encompass other psychosocial services and capacity building endeavors.
The CLPC is an attempt to ensure the protection of children’s best interests through legal aid service provision by establishing a pro-bono lawyers’ scheme. Apart from its legal aid services, the CLPC’s mediation service, paternity establishment through DNA testing as well as provision of other psychosocial services are helping to remove barriers children face in accessing justice and ensuring their rights and wellbeing.
Since its establishment, the CLPC carried out several important realisations, including:
- The CLPC has used the opportunity of the processes of the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code as well as the Legal Aid Strategy by the Ministry of Justice to advocate for law reform. Indeed, the studies conducted by CLPC have provided evidence regarding the gaps in law and practice. The National Policy Conference provided the basis for subsequent forums which ultimately produced a comprehensive document that was formally submitted to the Ethiopian Legal Research Institute to be considered in the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code. The redefinition of Powers and Responsibilities of the Executive has also improved the legal framework in defining the access to free legal aid. The CLPC has also greatly contributed to the development of the National Child Policy.
- The establishment of a referral system involving 37 governmental and non-governmental organisations with the aim of improving the administration of justice for children and ensuring the protection of the best interest of children involved in the justice system.
- The development of Standard Guidelines for a Child-Friendly Administration of Justice for the judiciary which sets forth uniform child-friendly implementation parameters, courtroom set-ups, referral systems, capacity building strategies as well as a data management system that should be applied by courts across the country. These guidelines were unanimously endorsed at the National Experience Sharing Workshop conducted in May 2014 by the Presidents of all the Regional and Federal Supreme Courts who pledged to put the document into use in their respective regions.
- The establishment of a national legal aid network among legal aid service providers across the country to help improve the quality of legal aid service and widen the accessibility of such services to children and other vulnerable groups of the society
- The setting-up of a pro-bono lawyers’ scheme involving 34 qualified independent lawyers working with the Center providing free legal aid services for children.
- Institutionalisation and standardisation of the CLPC’s mode of operation and service delivery through the development of various guidelines such as the pro-bono lawyers’ guidelines, legal counselling guidelines, as well as guidelines for court representation, case follow-up, referral and mediation services as well as guidelines for psychosocial counselling.
- Improvement of children’s access to justice through the provision of legal aid to over 30,000 children coming in contact with the justice system out of which more than 20,000 are girls.
- The family mediation services being provided by the CLPC has benefited a number of children in maintaining family relationships and/or, in instances where maintaining the relationship may not be possible, providing counselling to couples on the need for fulfilling their parenting responsibility as it benefits their children.
- Capacity building of over 2,000 law enforcement personnel and other professionals working closely with children involved with the justice system carried out through various training workshops.
- Awareness creation within the general public on the rights of children carried out through the production and dissemination of information, education and communication (IEC) materials and media.
- The rollout of the CLPC and its referral system to three regions in Ethiopia: namely, Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR.
SUSTAINABILITY OF THE CLPC
Federal courts provide working space and cover some of the CLPC’s administrative costs. Other local partners provide legal and psychosocial services to children, and work closely with the CLPC to improve and sustain the administration of justice for children.
ACPF has been extensively advocating for the absorption of the key functions of the CLPC within the public sector scheme. In this regard, the Government has already developed a proposal to integrate the CLPC as a national child protection structure within the Judiciary. There is political will from the Supreme Court officials to sustain the work of the CLPC even though the process of endorsement of a new structure and implementation is quite slow.
ACPF and the Federal Supreme Court have also taken steps to sustain the establishment of Social Work Units in the courts’ system which is a major child-friendly intervention to form a bridge between clients and the complex and more formalised court systems, in addition to responding to the psychosocial needs of children passing through the justice system.
With the intention of sustaining and expanding the accessibility of social work throughout the country, a tailored training programme has been designed with a plan to train some Federal and Regional Court officers in social work through an 18-month Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program. The major stakeholders involved in the design and development of the program have been the Federal First Instance Courts, the Federal Supreme Court’s Child Justice Project Office, the Federal Justice Organs’ Professional Training Centre, the Ministry of Education, the Addis Ababa TVET Agency, the Addis Ababa University School of Social Work, ACPF and UNICEF.
To date, the following tasks have been completed:
- The training has been accredited as TVET Level 4 Community Service Programme with the Ministry of Education
- The curriculum and the training modules were developed by experts from the Addis Ababa University School of Social Works and supported by ACPF
- The certification of trainers by the TVET Agency is now completed
- It is planned to start the training in 2018 within the newly constructed training complex of the Federal Justice Organs Professional Training Centre.
FINANCING OF THE CLPC
ACPF financially supported the work of the CLPC since its reestablishment in 2012 with funding from generous partners, such as Plan Netherlands, Plan Norway, the Canadian Embassy, the French Embassy and the British Council CSSP project.
Currently, funding for the CLPC is ending and ACPF is also lobbying the Government to take over key functions of the CLPC, including critical staff running the center. ACPF’s gradual phase out from the CLPC project started in 2017. From June to September 2017, ACPF has maintained key staffs to help the CLPC function with minimum capacity until the integration by Government is complete. This is done to support the court to transition smoothly with no major interruption in the functions of the CLPC.