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To strengthen coordination and networking of LASPs, harmonisation and standardisation of legal aid service provision by the different service providers, lobbying and advocacy to facilitate a favourable legal and policy environment.

REFLECTION MEETING FOR THE RESEARCH JOURNEY ON A2J, RULE OF LAW AND SECURITY NEEDS FOR REFUGEES AND HOST COMMUNITIES IN ARUA AND ISINGIRO DISTRICTS

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in pursuit of strengthening the nexus between the development and humanitarian support to refugees and host communities commissioned a study in July 2018 on Rule of Law, Access to Justice and Security needs of refugees and Host Communities in Arua and Isingiro districts.

A group photo of the participants; seated extreme left is Mr. Ramsey Bryant (UNHCR); Ms. Sandra Oryema (LASPNET Board Chairperson); Associate Prof. Christopher Mbazira (Lead Consultant) and ACP Anatoli Muleterwa (Uganda Police Force).

A group photo of the participants; seated extreme left is Mr. Ramsey Bryant (UNHCR); Ms. Sandra Oryema (LASPNET Board Chairperson); Associate Prof. Christopher Mbazira (Lead Consultant) and ACP Anatoli Muleterwa (Uganda Police Force).

LASPNET was selected to undertake the study due to its strategic position in the field of access to justice and coordination of legal aid in Uganda. The study was also anchored on the “Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy Programme” of JLOS and led to the development of the Assessment Report and Programme document. The Assessment report was later launched on 5th March 2019 at Sheraton Hotel by the Hon. Justice (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Hon. Hillary Onek, Minister in charge of refugees.

Following the conclusion of the project, LASPNET in partnership with UNDP and UNHCR convened a project implementation reflection meeting on 26th August 2019 at Serena Hotel to review and take stock of the project milestones, challenges and lessons learnt to inform future interventions in the realm of enhancing rule of law, access to justice and security needs of refugees and host communities. The meeting was attended by 33 (14 Male: 19Female) participants including Development partners, researchers, JLOS Secretariat, Police and LASPNET staff.

In her introductory remarks, Dr. Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, the Executive Director, LASPNET extended her appreciation to UNDP and UNCHR for trusting LASPNET to undertake the development of the Assessment report and Programme document. She further commended the Lead researcher, Associate Professor Christopher Mbazira, the Principal School of Law, Makerere University and Co-Lead Researcher, Justice Elizabeth Ibanda Nahamya, the research team and Secretariat team led by herself for their technical support in putting together the Assessment report and Programme document. She noted that the reflection meeting was intended to provide stakeholders with a platform to share experiences in an open manner, collectively strategize on how to consolidate gains of the project, harness opportunities for broadening effectiveness of the anticipated interventions, and propose sustainable solutions and responses to refugee justice needs.

Ms. Annet Wakabi Mpabulungi, Team Leader Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy Programme, UNDP passed a vote of thanks to all the institutions that UNDP worked with to develop the Assessment report and Programme document, including JLOS Secretariat, Uganda Police Force, Local Governments among others. She noted that the research findings will help to inform interventions of other stakeholders such as the NGOs, INGOs, MDAs and Inter Government Organizations to address refugee needs. She also called for coordination among all stakeholders in addressing refugee needs, continuous advocacy for the rights and freedom of refugees and also share the research study findings on different platforms so that the gaps that hinder rule of law and access to justice for refugees can be identified by the stakeholders. She finally noted that the research findings do not only benefit UNDP but also the Government of Uganda and other development partners.

 

L-R Dr. Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, ED LASPNET and Ms. Annet Wakabi Mpabulungi, Team Leader, Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy Programme UNDP making their remarks at the reflection meeting.

Whilst making a presentation on the Research journey, Dr. Namubiru highlighted the objectives of the project which entailed; reviewing existing coordination mechanisms and map actors’ activities, identifying service gaps among formal and informal justice institutions, identifying and reviewing safety/security coordination mechanisms in refugee settlements and providing recommendations to strengthen community policing, crime and violence prevention. She also noted that the research team employed a multi-pronged methodology in collecting data including administering House-hold surveys; Key Informant Interviews and Videography.

She alluded to the strengths of the project which included availability of financial resources, hybrid experienced research team, involvement of project beneficiaries and holding of periodic meetings. In regards to the opportunities, she noted that the Assessment report has been widely disseminated and sought after by JLOS institutions, learning institutions, MDAs and LASPs and the Programme document could be used as a fundraising tool.

Dr. Namubiru recommended the adoption of cost-effective strategies for popularizing the Assessment report and documentary such as uploading them on their websites, refugee online portals and social media, and further focus on the effectiveness of informal justice system in dispute resolution.

She further recommended that in future, sufficient time should be availed to similar projects that involve refugees and also called upon stakeholders to leverage the Assessment report and Programme document as critical fundraising tools in resource mobilization.

As the Lead Researcher, Associate Professor Christopher Mbazira noted that the research was very timely since the refugee problem is a more complex one that requires global response. He acknowledged the composition of the research team which he described as very experienced and subsequently simplified his work in analysing and compiling the Assessment report and Programme document. He further summarized the key research findings which included among others; logistical and human resource deficits among JLOS institutions such as Judiciary and Police; rampant SGBV cases within refugees and host communities; corruption among justice chain institutions notably Police and negative attitudes towards refugees.

The feedback session was moderated by the Co-Lead Researcher, Hon. Justice (Rtd) Elizabeth Nahamya Ibanda who on her part expressed gratitude to LASPNET for having considered her fit to lead the development of the Programme document. Ms. Diva Mukisa, Programme Officer, Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy UNDP in her reaction revealed that the research enhanced coordination between UNHCR and UNDP through strengthening the humanitarian and development nexus. She called upon stakeholders to implement the research findings in a bid to improve access to justice, rule of law and security needs of refugees and host communities. Commissioner of Police in charge of Community Policing, Hadija Namutebi shared that the Police has earmarked resources from JLOS Secretariat to conduct community policing activities within refugee settlements. In addition, she noted that Police had received vehicles to ease monitoring of SGBV within refugee settlements and host communities.

Ms. Barbara Kitui, the Resource Person for Family Justice, JLOS expressed great appreciation of the research and noted that it provides substantive information on access to justice, rule of law and security needs of refugees. She added that the JLOS Secretariat has often relied on the report findings to develop interventions aimed at addressing access to justice needs of refugees and host communities.

Ms. Sandra Oryema, the Chairperson Board of Directors, LASPNET in her remarks extended her sincere gratitude to the development partners, that is UNDP and UNHCR for providing resources towards the research and to the research team for the work done and lastly the participants who turned up for the reflection meeting. She then implored all stakeholders to implement the report recommendations in regards to addressing rule of law, access to justice and security needs of refugees.

While closing off the reflection meeting, Mr. Ramsey Bryant Senior Protection Officer, UNHCR noted that the Assessment report will enable UNHCR and UNDP to design appropriate interventions for addressing access to justice, rule of law and security needs of refugees and host communities. He appreciated LASPNET for successfully implementing the project as well as the research team for undertaking such an evidence-based research. He lastly called upon stakeholders including Government, Development partners and CSOs among others to ensure that the findings of the Assessment report are used in addressing refugee needs.

 

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