Free Legal Aid project, assisting the citizens, will expand across Ukraine, more transparenсy introducing in hiring procedures.
Kyiv, April 27, 2016. The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine extends the project to provide free legal aid to citizens by converting 434 district centers of justice in service centers. The centers will conduct educational work, consult on the use of electronic services of the Ministry of Justice, and represent citizens’ interests in court. New centers will start work on September 1 throughout Ukraine (except the temporarily occupied territories). “Although it is not a civil service, we use the approach incorporated in the new law on civil service for selecting the staff. We plan to attract new motivated people to decent, competitive wages. Legal aid bureaus should be the face of law and justice in Ukraine,” said Pavlo Petrenko, Minister of Justice of Ukraine, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Leaders of the newly formed bureaus will be elected transparently through open contest, which started on April 4 (more –on conditions and the course of the contest). Candidates may apply till May 31. According to the contest results, two people will be selected for each bureau: head and deputy. The selection will take place in three stages. It will be conducted by a competition commission which 2/3 will consist of public sector representatives. “We have already received about 2 thousand applications. The number of candidates for the two seats in each bureau ranges, depending on the region, from 36 (the Transcarpathian region) to 162 people (in Lviv region),” noted Myroslav Lavrinok, Acting Director of the Coordination Center for Legal Aid. He said that the bureau employees will get salaries of 3,500 – 6,000 UAH and have prospects for growth.
Oksana Kikot, Manager of Ukrainian-Canadian project “Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine”, which provides support to reform, said that the determining factor is not just knowledge and skills. “It is important that candidates share the value system of legal aid bureau. These are integrity, openness and customer orientation. The bureaus should not be bureaucratic institutions, but rather assistants to the public. We have the ability to provide access of Ukrainian specialists to various Canadian experience and best world practices,” stressed Ms. Kikot, promising to support the project at least until the end of 2018.
In the long term, the project will strengthen the civil society in Ukraine, believes Yevhen Bystrytsky, Executive Director of the International Renaissance Foundation, which also supports the project. “Due to the bureau educational work, citizens will raise their level of legal awareness and acquire capacity to self-defense in the legal field. This, in turn, can provide a major impetus to reform the entire legal system, including reform of the judiciary and prosecution. The reform will succeed if there is ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ pressure,” said Mr. Bystrytsky.
The Minister of Justice emphasized that the establishment of bureaus in the regions is also part of decentralization reform and will strengthen communities. Therefore, in his opinion, the latter will also join their funding, which will contribute, ultimately, to the quality of life in the communities. “The next step [in the framework of decentralization reform] will involve local government in co-financing – together with us and international donor organizations,” said Mr. Petrenko.
The project to provide free legal aid to vulnerable people started in Ukraine in summer 2015. Now there are 100 of these agencies in Ukraine and more than 100 thousand people have already got help.