“If you are convinced about ASF, then yes, make a donation”

Brussels, 21 September 2016 – If access to justice is to be sustainable, the capacity of international actors such as ASF should also be sustainable. In essence that is the message from ASF Executive Director, Francesca Boniotti, on the occasion of the publication of the NGO’s 2015 Annual Report. Question: For those of us who have not had the chance to look through ASF’s 2015 Annual Report, what is the main theme? Francesca Boniotti (F.B.): For me, above all it’s all the energy and expertise which our teams in the field and at our Head Office have invested in the pursuit of a single objective: to improve the living conditions of people by giving them the means to access justice. And then, thanks to our projects and our studies, we have been able to demonstrate in a tangible way the extent to which access to justice is essential for fighting against inequalities, establishing a lasting peace and supporting sustainable development. In this sense, the fact that the justice aspect has been integrated into the Sustainable Development Goals[1] at the end of 2015 reinforces the actions that ASF has been involved in for several years now. Q.: Do you think that the work of ASF in post-conflict countries or countries in transition is becoming more complicated year by year? F.B.: That is a complex question. First and foremost, let’s remember that ASF has always worked in countries which are emerging from major crises and/or generalised violence. We were in Rwanda after the genocide. Now, we have a project in the Central African Republic. What complicates our work is when countries return to a period of political instability, as seen in Burundi, or potentially in DR Congo. Donors such as the EU pay very close attention to what is happening and may decide to postpone the financing of projects because of the situation on the ground. This uncertainty can have a direct impact on our financial resources and, as a result, limit our ability to intervene in favour of people in vulnerable situations who are seeking justice. Q.: Let’s talk about financing. What is the situation for ASF? F.B.: There is a paradox. With the help of British cooperation (UK Aid), ASF has been able to benefit from essential structural funding. For example, this support has enabled us to develop projects in new contexts, such as Tunisia and Myanmar without waiting for calls for proposals initiated by donors. Thanks to this funding, we have been able to improve our analyses of the context, develop innovative projects more suited to people’s needs as well as solid partnerships with national stakeholders. Generally speaking, our responsiveness, our adaptability and our expertise are better than ever. In spite of this, access to funding is becoming increasingly difficult, and this has an impact on our capacity to help people exercise their rights. Q.: Are you launching an appeal for donations? F.B.: Of course. Have a look at our activity report. The figures are all in there, as well as testimonies from the men and women who have been able to exercise their rights, and words from our partners. If you are convinced, then yes, make a donation. Your support will allow our teams to continue with their work. [1] SDG 16 (target 16.3): promote the establishment of peaceful societies, ensure access to justice for all and, at all levels, put in place institutions which are effective, responsible and open to all.
Picture :  ©ASF
Continue reading ““If you are convinced about ASF, then yes, make a donation””

Making wishes for human rights

Brussels, 7 June 2016 – ASF was represented at the annual sporting and family event organised by the Order of Flemish Bars (OVB) last weekend in Tervuren, on the outskirts of the Belgian capital. Named Advocatenrun, the seventh edition brought together over 600 participants who, through OVB, have been supporting the work of ASF for several years. OVB represents over 10,000 Flemish lawyers. Last Sunday, the ASF team took part in the Advocatenrun, staged in the magnificent Tervuren Park, under timid but eventually bright sunshine. This year, more than 600 people signed up for the day’s activities, which included a bike ride, a visit to the Museum of Central Africa (currently being renovated), various running races for children and adults, and much more other activities. ASF took the opportunity to organise a fun and symbolic awareness-raising activity. Participants were invited to write down a wish they have for human rights. The cards were then attached to balloons to be released at the end of the day. “Our initiative was very well received, even though people came first and foremost to spend a relaxing afternoon with their family or colleagues. More than one in ten took part in our activity. I noticed that the children were particularly interested in sending out a message related to human rights. I think that shows a real awareness of the issue”, said Séverine Degée, Head of Communications at ASF. Among the many messages written by participants, some of those which stood out were “I want all children to be able to go to school, even if they are poor”, “Everyone has rights, but the key is to ensure they are enforced”, or “Equal rights for women”. Unfortunately, we were not able to release the balloons at the end of the day because of a heavy storm, but it is highly likely that we will repeat the activity in 2017, on the occasion of the organisation’s 25th anniversary. “We would like to thank everyone who took part in the Advocatenrun because for every person who signed up, OVB will donate €2 to ASF”, Séverine Degée pointed out. ASF would also like to thank OVB’s enthusiastic team for promoting the activity.

Webstory 2 advocatenrun 2016 (16)

“We would particularly like to thank OVB President, Dominique Matthijs”, said Francesca Boniotti, Director General of ASF. “As well as yesterday’s event, OVB makes an annual donation of €35,000 to ASF. This support is crucial for our organisation since budgets allocated to cooperation and development continue to shrink year after year. This is despite the fact that the need to promote human rights is more urgent than ever”. Support ASF
Photo: ASF campaign – “Send your wishes in favour of human rights”, Tervuren (Belgium), June 2016 © ASF – G. Van Moortel
Small photo: Dominique Matthijs, OVB President (left) and Francesca Boniotti, ASF Director General (right), Tervuren (Belgium), June 2016 © ASF – G. Van Moortel
Continue reading “Making wishes for human rights”

Get ASF involved in your happiest moments

Brussels, 11 February 2016 – On Valentine’s Day, Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) will be toasting to a newlywed couple of lawyers in Belgium. On the occasion of their wedding, the couple requested that their guests make a donation to ASF. Weddings, births, birthdays or getting promoted: important milestones in one’s life that present an opportunity to support human rights issues.

Louise Galot and Pierre-Yves Thoumsin (picture) were married last year on 17 October 2015, in Jodoigne. This event also provided the opportunity to support a cause close to their hearts.

Aware of the importance of access to justice for all, the couple, both lawyers from Brussels, proposed in their gift registry that guests make a donation to ASF. “We wanted to support a cause linked with our area of work. We chose ASF so that we could bring to people’s attention an organisation that is little known in some circles, but that nevertheless carries out essential work,” explains Louise Galot.

The couple believes that access to justice, legal advice and support, and the possibility of making one’s voice heard, are fundamental rights. “This is an integral part of a person’s life, as much as the essential needs of health, food and clothing. Having access to justice also gives people confidence in themselves,” adds Pierre-Yves Thoumsin.

The initiative received positive feedback from the couple’s circle of friends and family. “We received a lot of messages congratulating us on this gesture. As far as we were concerned, we were pleased to be able to share our happiness to help others,” said the lawyer from the Brussels Bar Association. In the end, 17 people made donations totalling €915.

This is encouraging for our teams. The donations collected will help us  respond to requests for urgent aid from lawyers who are under threat. We will use it to prepare for the launch of our new project in Zambia, and finance staff training,” explains Séverine Degée, Communication Officer at ASF. “There are so many expenses which cannot be covered by our institutional donors. We are very grateful to the newlyweds and their generous friends!

Would you also like to support ASF on the occasion of a special event? Invite your friends and family to donate some of the money that would have otherwise gone towards flowers and presents to ASF. Nothing could be more simple than making an online donation via our secure platform, or by donating via a bank transfer. All gifts over €40 benefit from a tax deduction of 45%. Ask your friends and family to specify that their gift is made in your honour so we can be sure to let you know that they did! From our side, we will thank them personally. Please do not hesitate to contact us for details.

Picture: Louise Galot and Pierre-Yves Thoumsin at their wedding in Jodoigne.

Continue reading “Get ASF involved in your happiest moments”

ASF receives an exceptional donation from the Belgian Development Cooperation

Boom/Brussels – On Thursday (24 December 2015), Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) received a donation of €50,000 from the Belgian Development Cooperation. The Deputy Prime Minister and Belgian Minister for Development Aid, Alexander De Croo, personally presented a cheque to ASF as part of the solidarity event “Music for Life”. This donation provides valuable aid at a time when NGOs are finding it increasingly difficult to access development aid funds.

It was ten years ago that the Flemish radio station Studio Brussel started organising “Music for Life”. The purpose of this event is to raise funds for good causes. For one week the radio station plays listener requests in exchange for donations. Donations can also be made via events or activities or in the form of “institutional” donations. In total, over 1,000 good causes will share the money raised.

Every year the Belgian Government contributes to this very popular show of solidarity (more than 200,000 “likes” on Facebook). Amongst all the beneficiaries that receive funds from Music for Life this year, there are two organisations that have received a donation from the Belgian Development Cooperation: ASF and Medics Without Vacation.

We decided to make a donation to ASF in order to support its work promoting access to justice in post-conflict countries or countries in transition. ASF is active in a number of our partner countries such as Burundi, Uganda and DR Congo. These countries will not be able to achieve lasting development without their citizens being able to exercise theirs basic rights“, declared Minister De Croo at the event.

This donation is particularly welcome given that access to project financing is becoming increasingly difficult. Populations in vulnerable situations need our support“, argues Chantal van Cutsem, ASF Strategic Coordinator. “For the victims of international crimes, those detained illegally, women and the destitute, having access to justice re-establishes one’s dignity and builds for the future.

ASF has also benefited from another act of kindness as part of ” Music for Life “. A group of law students at the Thomas More School  in Malines asked the public to express their opposition to the numerous human rights violations by smashing dishes for a cost of €2, in order to raise funds for ASF.

Every act of solidarity counts. From every donation of €10, €9 go directly to our activities in the field with our partners and on our work with the population“, concludes Chantal van Cutsem.

The activities of ASF are essentially financed thanks to institutional sponsors. The Belgian Development Cooperation is the third largest technical and financial partner after the European Union and British development aid.

You can also support Avocats Sans Frontières!

Cover picture: The Minister for Development Aid, Alexander De Croo, personally presented a cheque to Chantal van Cutsem, ASF Strategic Coordinator © Studio Brussel, 24/12/2015

Continue reading “ASF receives an exceptional donation from the Belgian Development Cooperation”

ASF wins ING Solidarity Award

Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) was recently awarded a Solidarity Award by the bank ING. ASF’s aid project for refugees and asylum seekers in Burundi was one of 15 selected by the jury, from almost 650 entries.

By running this competition for the first time, ING Belgium has enabled the winning organisations to increase their visibility and benefit from a financial boost. “Unfortunately, lots of interesting projects are not visible, or they are not visible enough. This is a way for us to commit to supporting charitable organisations”, explained Joke Van Hoye, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at ING Belgium, at the awards ceremony on 10 February.

Francesca Boniotti, Director-General of Avocats Sans Frontières, welcomes the award: “Winning this prize means that both the impact and the sustainability of our actions have been recognised.” Séverine Degée, Communications Officer, explains the impact that the prize has had: “We have won €2,500, which is obviously a modest amount, but it will enable us to do things such as guarantee legal assistance for 100 asylum seekers before the national courts that are responsible for deciding on their applications for protection. It’s a very welcome boost to the financing that our project has already received from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.”

BUR_Piddar2013_Tim Op De BeeckAs a result of its geographic position, Burundi has welcomed people seeking international protection for decades. These people are particularly vulnerable. They are not very aware of what procedures they need to follow to lodge an application for asylum, and they are often victims of sexual violence and gross violations of human rights. Thanks to the project launched by ASF in 2013, over 7,000 refugees and asylum seekers will be informed of their rights and responsibilities and the asylum procedure. They will be offered free reception, referral and legal advice services. They will also receive assistance before the courts. Finally, special training programmes will be organised for the authorities, the police, civil society and the media.

This prize also represents a new stage in the collaboration between ASF and ING, which was initiated in 2012 on the occasion of the organisation’s 20th anniversary. Don’t miss the second edition next year!

Cover picture: The members of the ING Solidarity Award jury. From left to right: Philippe Masset (ING), David Leyssens (Kauri), Sabine Denys (Business & Society, chair of the jury), Lieve Blancquaert (photographer), Pascale Van Durme (Vzw Socialware Philantropie/Filantropie), Rik Vandenberghe (ING) and Véronique Van Cang (ING).

Continue reading “ASF wins ING Solidarity Award”

« Music For Life », music for more justice

Brussels, 10 January 2014 – The law students of the University of Leuven and the Flemish Bar Association have organized different fundraising activities for the radio campaign ‘Music For Life’. Their goal: to support the activities of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF).

Last December, public Flemish radio station Studio Brussels’ yearly solidarity campaign, ‘Music For Life’, took place in Boom (see picture), a small city near Antwerp. With the slogan ‘The warmest week of the year’ a full week of radio was made in open air for 700 good causes. In parallel, others were encouraged to organize activities to raise additional funds for one of those causes—which is what the Leuven law students and the Flemish Bar Association did for ASF.

On 9 and 10 December, a cake and coffee sale was organized in the Law Faculty of the University of Leuven. “Most people were enthusiastic to buy a coffee or a cake, even the professor who was teaching at the moment”, stated Gauthier Moureau, the student responsible for the event. “Also, a lot of students weren’t aware of what ASF did. After some explanation, most of them were really interested in ASF’s work”. Still, Gauthier remains down-to-earth: “the money that we raised is just a drop in the ocean for an organization like ASF, which tries to improve access to justice in countries where the needs are great. But that doesn’t stop us from giving our all for ASF.”

The Flemish Bar Association also took action to support ASF. For an entire week, the employees of the Bar could contribute through the Music for Life donation box placed in their offices. Babette De Grom of the communication service at the Flemish Bar Association recalls: “Some employees even wanted to do something of their own. One colleague baked cookies on the weekend and wanted to sell them for Music For Life”, Pens were also sold at the Annual General meeting of the FBA.

In addition, listeners of Studio Brussels were given the opportunity to request a song for Music For Life, provided they made a gift for ASF.

Altogether, these activities raised approximately 900 euros for ASF.

“We want to thank everyone for their efforts.  The Flemish Bar Association and the law students of Leuven University showed that everyone can take action for an organization like ASF”, says Gilles Van Moortel, in charge of fundraising at ASF.

Cover picture: Open air show from Music For Life in Boom © ASF/ T. van ‘t Hof.

Continue reading “« Music For Life », music for more justice”

Saving up for more justice

Brussels, 17 October 2013 – Ensuring justice means ensuring sustainability. That is the reason why Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) also reaches out to people who save up their money at banks committed to sustainable development, like Triodos Bank. Therefore, at the invitation of this bank, ASF took part at the annual Triodos Day, in Brussels, and took this opportunity to share its message of sustainable justice with savers and clients.

triodos day 2
Signing up for the ASF newsletter is a first step © ASF

Triodos Bank stands out in Belgium as the only bank with a focus on sustainable banking. Triodos Day on October 13 offered the bank’s clients the opportunity to visit information stands of various organisations, including ASF.

Triodos Bank, like ASF, gives great importance to equal rights, human dignity and a better quality of life. “We are thankful for the opportunity to introduce our organisation to Triodos’ savers, because ensuring justice means ensuring sustainability,” says Gilles Van Moortel, member of the communication team of ASF. “In post-conflict or transition situations for example, such as Nepal and Tunisia, transitional justice is a crucial step towards durable peace. Therefore, ASF is active in such countries to help build a fair and efficient justice system.”

The attending savers were interested in ASF’s stand. “I’m attentive to any topic dealing with human rights and justice. ASF is the go-to NGO in that domain,” shares a young woman from Liège. Another visitor is of the opinion that ASF deserves more visibility: “Such visibility is important to garner support for your actions, and for those who need your help and better access to justice.”

“Although ASF is mainly supported by institutional donors such as the European Union, we also count on individual donations. Therefore we want to thank in advance all savers who are willing to invest in the fight for human rights and access to justice. It doesn’t matter if it’s one or one hundred euros, every donation counts,” states Gilles Van Moortel.

Hopefully, we can address the savers again at next year’s Triodos Day.

Cover photo: The ASF team ready to convince the savers of the importance of sustainable justice and access to justice © ASF

Continue reading “Saving up for more justice”

“Bronze” for ASF-runner

Brussels – 11 September 2013. On Friday, 6th of September, the King Baudouin Stadium was bustling with excitement during the Memorial Van Damme, for many athletes the last international meeting of the season. The spectacular event was struck by “lightening” by the participation of Usain Bolt, and new records were set. For Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), the evening was even more significant because law student Gert-Jan Struye ran the 100 meters of his life for ASF and he managed to take third place in a solid 12”36!

A radio station gave eight men and eight women the opportunity to sprint the 100m at the Memorial in support of a good cause of their choice. We met up with Gert-Jan in the aftermath of his sensational race for ASF.

Gert-Jan, how does it feel to sprint in front of tens of thousands of people?
G-J: It was unbelievable! As exciting as it was to train with Kim Gevaert [former European champion on the 100m], you can’t imagine the rush I felt to compete in front of so many spectators. After our warming-up session, which was in the same field the professional athletes use for their preparation, a shuttle bus drove us to the stadium. We entered the arena and were led onto the track. As candidate for the VRG presidency [the law student association of the Catholic University of Leuven], I’ve often faced a full auditorium. Nonetheless, to sprint in front of a sold-out King Baudouin stadium is a totally different experience! To hear the sound of 40,000 people applauding and cheering you on is absolutely exhilarating. The whole event is actually one big rush. The whole race, from the moment you shoot out of the starting blocks until the point where you’re lead out of the stadium, all seems to go by in the blink of an eye.

What was the most unforgettable moment of the evening?
G-J: The moments before the start of the race, as I was waiting for the starting pistol to be fired, were very special. I tried to clear my mind and stay focused on the race, although at the same time I was surrounded by tens of thousands of people watching my every move.

Are you happy with the outcome of your performance?
G-J: I felt I could have done better than a third place and it was unfortunate that my takeoff was a bit slow. On the other hand it feels wonderful to finish third at the Memorial Van Damme where I ran on the same track as Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Do you have any activities planned supporting ASF in the future?
G-J: The VRG intends to organise activities this year in support of ASF. Through these events, we also hope to familiarize law students in Leuven with the work of ASF.

We thank Gert-Jan for his commitment to ASF. Furthermore, ASF would like to thank everyone who sponsored Gert-Jan while preparing for the 100 meters of his life. We are pleased to announce that more than 1000 euros was raised in support of Gert-Jan and ASF, especially thanks to the Belgian National Lottery and the law firm Eubelius.

We hope that this initiative will be followed by many more similar actions in the future.

Read the previous webstory on Gert-Jan’s participation in the 100 meters of his life.

Cover photo: Gert-Jan on the tracks, ready to run for justice © G-J Struye / ASF

Continue reading ““Bronze” for ASF-runner”

Looking for pro bono legal experts

Brussels, 2 September 2013 – The Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) International Legal Network (ILN) provides an opportunity for lawyers to volunteer from time to time in support of vulnerable populations in need of legal and judicial assistance. To date however, despite its 800 members, this network lacks professionals in specialised areas of law such as international criminal justice and the organisation of legal aid services.

Julie Goffin is a lawyer with the Brussels French-speaking Bar association and ILN member. Her commitment to human rights is not new. “My parents were already engaged in this field. As a student expert, I attended the negotiations during the adoption of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). That was in 1998 … in Rome,” she recalls. Since then, Ms. Goffin has consolidated her experience in foreign law, humanitarian law and in particular international criminal law. She is also part of the legal team representing some of the victims in the Katanga and Ngudjolo cases, both accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the DR Congo, at the ICC.

Training workshop on international criminal justice in Bukavu, June 2013 © ASF / G. Van Moortel

It is therefore natural that ASF sought her support to conduct a training workshop on international criminal justice and the Rome Statute system. This took place last June in Bukavu, a Congolese town bordering Rwanda. The training’s objective was to strengthen the capacity of lawyer members of the ASF pool in the DR Congo in the areas of professional practice and strategic action. “It is essential to promote the exchange of experiences among lawyers responsible for assisting or representing victims of serious human rights violations and international crimes. During the five days of training, I found my Congolese colleagues very open and committed to the fight against impunity,” she recounts.

Created in 2010, the ILN highlights the essential role of international lawyers alongside their colleagues working in countries where the rule of law has not yet been achieved. With the increasing number of ASF activities focused on building the capacity of lawyers, the Network quickly became a key source of expertise. “Since its inception, members of the ILN have made no less than 86 interventions, totaling 620 workdays. This effort has greatly contributed to strengthening the capacity of local players,” says Catherine Lalonde, ILN Coordinator.

“Yet today we lack members in areas such as representation in international criminal justice, the international framework of economic and social rights, and the treatment of corruption cases,” Lalonde continues. “Candidates with profiles of judges, prosecutors, and professors, or skilled in organising legal aid services are also particularly requested.”

After a strong development phase, the ILN network faces a new challenge: how to best meet the needs identified through ASF projects, in order to increase the efficiency and quality of the services it offers to the most vulnerable populations? For her part, Julie Goffin has come out enriched from her training mission in Bukavu: “Whether it is in the DR Congo or elsewhere, our colleagues give us a lesson in courage because they are the ones who take all the risks. Sharing our expertise with them is to show solidarity.”

For more information on ILN

Cover photo: “Sharing our expertise is to show solidarity.” Julie Goffin, laywer and member of the ILN; Bukavu (DRC), 2013 © ASF / G. Van Moortel

Continue reading “Looking for pro bono legal experts”

100 meters for Avocats Sans Frontières

On 6 September 2013, hundreds of athletes will compete for sporting glory at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels. This year, the event will not only be memorable for athletics enthusiasts, but also for Gert-Jan Struye and Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF). Gert-Jan, president of the law student association VRG from Leuven, is one of the happy few who will sprint 100 meters for a good cause, alongside champions such as Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

The Flemish radio station Studio Brussel gives eight men and eight women the opportunity to run the 100 meters of their lives at the Memorial Van Damme. When choosing a good cause, Gert-Jan’s heart went out to ASF. Before the event, he is encouraging people to sponsor him in his support for ASF. In addition, the Belgian national lottery (Lotto) will divide €5000 of prize money among the participants, in support of their good cause, ranging from €500 for the winner to €100 for the eighth place.

We met up with Gert-Jan a couple of weeks before the big event.

Run the 100 meters of your life!

Gert-Jan, why did you choose ASF as the charity for which to run?
Gert-Jan: “As president of the VRG, I have been in contact with Avocats Sans Frontières for a few years. At the time, we sometimes organised activities to benefit ASF. Through this, I came to respect ASF’s commitment to ensure a fair and impartial judicial system for all. For us, here, such a judicial system is self-evident, but that is far from being the case elsewhere. Therefore, when I needed to choose a charity for my 100m sprint at the Memorial Van Damme, the decision was easily made.”

What do you hope to achieve by participating in the 100 meter sprint?
Gert-Jan: “I hope more people will become aware of the work ASF is doing and how this can contribute to a better judicial system in countries where corruption, armed conflicts and political violence often occur. If, by running 100 meters, I can encourage a few people to contemplate global issues and convince them to support Avocats Sans Frontières, I’ll have achieved my goal. Of course, this entails that I will try to run a top time and come in first, so that I can put Avocats Sans Frontières in the spotlight as much as possible.

Do you want to give Gert-Jan and Avocats Sans Frontières a financial boost? There’s still time to make a donation on our bank account BE89 6300 2274 9185 (BIC code: BBRUBEBB) or online, mentioning ‘100 meters Gert-Jan StuBru’. Any donation over 40 euros is tax deductible.

We thank Gert-Jan in advance for his support to Avocats Sans Frontières and we will cheer him on September the sixth. We hope you will too!eubelius_logo

We would like to thank the law firm Eubelius for their financial support to Gert-Jan’s cause and ASF. Furthermore, they will double the price money Gert-Jan is able to obtain during the contest.

Cover photo: Gert-Jan in preparation for the most exciting 100 meters of his life

Continue reading “100 meters for Avocats Sans Frontières”