Lawyering for Change 2022: Programme

Wednesday October 12, 2022

9am – Conference opening (FR/EN/NL)

Ouverture jour 1 EN
  • Patrick Henry – President of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF)
  • Peter Callens – President of Orde van Vlaamse Balies (OVB)
  • Pierre Sculier – President of

9:30am – Plenary: Empowering for Change – How to use legal empowerment as a driver for public engagement? (FR/EN/NL)

Empowering EN
Moderator: Chantal van Cutsem – Executive director, Avocats Sans Frontières
  • Sana Ben Achour – Professor of public law and militant, president of Beity (Tunisia)
  • Julien Moriceau – Researcher and consultant, INANGA (Mauritius)
  • Irene Anying – Country director in Uganda, Avocats Sans Frontières (Uganda)
  • Katia Melis – Lawyer and co-founder of Casa Legal ASBL (Belgium)

In the fight against injustice in our societies today, it is essential to put people back at the heart of the process of achieving their rights. Numerous initiatives, known as legal empowerment, aim to strengthen the power to act of individuals and communities. Are these legal empowerment actions sufficiently participatory to contribute to a real empowerment of the beneficiaries?

The plenary session “Empowering for Change” will provide an opportunity to analyse the impact and limitations of legal empowerment initiatives and to understand how they can contribute to the social, political and economic empowerment of marginalised citizens and communities.

11:30am – Plenary: Lawyering for Change – The lawyer as an actor of change (FR/EN/NL)

Lawyering EN
Moderator: Jennifer Troncoso – Country Director in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Avocats Sans Frontières (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Nicolas Ferran – Strategic litigation manager, International Prison Monitoring Centre (France)
  • Sihem BensedrineJournalist, Human rights defender, President of the Truth and Dignity Commission (Tunisia)
  • François Godbout – Programme Officer, Pan African Lawyers Union (Tanzania)
  • Sandra Cossart – Executive Director, Sherpa (France)

Lawyer (noun): “In law, the lawyer is a jurist whose traditional responsibilities are to advise, represent, assist and defend his clients, in court, by pleading for their rights”. With such a definition, activism in favor of social change does not seem to be part of the prerogatives of a lawyer. However, the law can be a powerful instrument towards change. What role can lawyers – defined here as anyone who works with the law – play in raising awareness, bringing judicial decisions to life, converting them into effective change in the society, and accompanying the transformation of citizens into more equal and fairer societies?

In the plenary session “Lawyering for Change”, four legal practitioners will bring their insights on this issue and share concrete experiences of lawyers’ involvement in social struggles, of legal mobilizations that have had effects in the social and political world, and of collaborations between judicial and extra-judicial actors that have reinforced the social impact of judicial decisions.

2pm – Workshops session

Workshop 1: How can judiciary and non-judiciary tools be used to fight violence against women more effectively? (FR/EN/NL)

Workshop 1 Violence faites aux femmes EN Moderator: Insaf Bouhafs – Programme officer, Avocats Sans Frontières (Tunisia)
  • Gonzague Dupas – Legal advisor, Avocats Sans Frontières Canada (France)
  • Sharon Lucima – Monitor and evaluation manager, Avocats Sans Frontières (Uganda)
  • Gaëtane Decrayencour – Lawyer at the Brussels bar and member of Fem&Law (Belgium)

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, while acknowledging that the structural nature of violence against women is based on gender, prohibits, in its article 48, the use of mediation and conciliation as an alternative conflict resolution mechanism. However, the so-called “formal” justice system can reproduce, through its organization and application, the same structural and patriarchal patterns that we seek to prevent by preferring it over ” informal ” justice.

In societies where male domination is based on tradition, capitalism, culture and religion, which pathways to justice are available? What obstacles do women victims of violence have to face when seeking justice, in the North and the South? What formal and informal justice mechanisms can be used to concretely address the multifaceted reality of this violence?

Workshop 2: Defending migrants’ rights in the Mediterranean by strenghtening North-South collaborations (FR)

Workshop 2 Droits des migrant.e.s EN
Moderator: Zeineb Mrouki – Programme coordinator, Avocats Sans Frontières (Tunisia)
  • Giorgia Linardi – Advocacy officer and legal advisor, Seawatch (Italia)
  • Sami Adouani – Member of the governing board of the Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux (Tunisia)
  • Diletta Agresta – Project coordinator, Associazione Studi Giurdici Immigrazione (Italia)
  • Sara Prestianni – Researcher and migration programme officer, Euromed Rights (Belgium)

The Mediterranean sea has become the centre of migratory tensions and the symbol of the violation of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. These violations occur in both transit and destination countries and are largely the result of subcontracting mechanisms put in place by European countries that delegate migration management to transit countries. The latter do not have offer an adequate reception system and tend to adopt security and criminalisation policies.

Faced with these transnational dynamics of systemic violation of migrants’ rights, this workshop aims to capitalise on the experiences of mobilisation of actors on the ground to contribute to strengthening the links between civil societies and associations from the North and South of the Mediterranean, in order to better prevent violations and strengthen access to migrants’ rights.

Workshop 3: How to tackle colonial and post-colonial injustices ? (FR)

Workshop 3 injustices coloniales et post-coloniales EN Moderator: Valérie Arnould – Legal and Policy Advisor in Transitional Justice and colonial past, Avocats Sans Frontières (Belgium)
  • Sihem Bensedrine – Journalist, Human rights defender and president of the Truth and Dignity Commission (Tunisia)
  • Georgine Dibua Mbombo – Founder of Bakushinta (Belgium)
For decades, justice, reparations and recognition of the injustices inflicted by colonialism, as well as contemporary structural injustices linked to this colonial legacy, have been at the heart of the demands of victim populations from colonised countries or their diaspora. However, former colonial countries are only beginning to address these issues. Examples include the United States, Great Britain, Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.
This workshop will focus on sharing experiences of mobilisisations for justice for the colonial past and its contemporary structural injustices. The objective will also be to reflect on the cooperation and coalitions to be built between various actors (lawyers, academics, activists, civil society…), based in both the North and the South.

3:40pm – Workshops session

Workshop 1: Coalitions as a catalyst for change for transitional justice (FR/EN/NL)

Workshop 4 Coalitions JT EN Moderator: Valérie Arnould – Legal & Policy Advisor in Transitional Justice, Avocats Sans Frontières (Belgium)
  • Khayem Chemli – Advocacy officer, Avocats Sans Frontières (Tunisia)
  • Thèrèse Kulungu – Lawyer and coordinator of the Transitional justice working group (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Ram Bandhari – Cofounder of the International network of victims and survivors of serious human rights abuses (Nepal)
  • Elisabeth Baumgartner – Expert at the Facility on justice in conflict and transition, International IDEA (Belgium)
In transitional justice processes, civil society plays a key role in ensuring the participation and ownership of local populations. The involvement of civil society is essential both in setting up these mechanisms and in monitoring the integrity of the process at different stages of its implementation. Building coalitions within civil society helps to strengthen the claims of victims and ensure their participation in transitional justice processes. However, these coalitions may suffer from a lack of clear strategic direction and difficulty in maintaining long-term commitment. This workshop will bring together actors from the North and South who are active on these issues. Its aim will be to explore the conditions necessary for effective transitional justice coalitions and to develop a community of practice to share knowledge and experience on transitional justice coalitions.

Workshop 2: Breaking the prison deadlock, moving towards grounded public policies (FR)

Workshop 5 Détention EN Moderator: Bruno Langhendries – Head of strategic support, Avocats Sans Frontières (Belgium)
  • Sarah Grandfils – Researcher and member of the Central Supervisory Board of Prisons (Belgium)
  • Carole Berrih – Researcher and consultant specialsed in detention (France)
  • Romain Ravet – Regional Director in Eastern Africa, Avocats Sans Frontières (Uganda)
  • Sana Ben Achour – Professor of public law and militant, president of Beity (Tunisia)
Prison is one of the most criticized institutions in the world for its massive and systematic use. However, incarceration remains the preferred instrument in the fight against crime, regularly generating state violence. After taking a look at the state of the prison system, this workshop will explore the dynamics of advocacy in the North and South (what can be done? how to act? how to be receptive?) but will also question the possible responsibility of international cooperation actors.

Thursday October 13, 2022

9am – Opening of Day 2 (FR/EN/NL)

9:30am – Plenary: Advocating for Change – How to advocate for an effective and lasting societal change? (FR/EN/NL)

Advocating for Change EN Moderator: Antonio Manganella – Regional director for the Euro-mediterranean region, Avocats Sans Frontières (Tunisia)
  • Soheila Comninos – Senior programme officer, Open Society Founations (United States)
  • Sara Prestianni – Researcher and programme officer in migration and asylum, Euromed (Italy)
  • Ali Idrissa – Human Rights defender and national coordinator at Network of organisations for transparency and budget analysis (Niger)
As the world becomes more and more interconnected and interdependent, new eminently political global issues are emerging and civil society is trying to take hold of them so as not to leave them to political and economic actors alone. Based on concrete examples, this plenary will attempt to identify the conditions for a successful advocacy strategy, by presenting different modes of action that have led to concrete changes in public policy. Global issues such as the criminalisation of poverty, migration and the responsibility of economic actors will be addressed.

11:30am – Plenary: What role for digital technology in the fight for human rights? Opportunities, challenges and limits (FR/EN/NL)

Numérique et droits humains EN Moderator: Justine Dofal – Justice ExPEERience Coordinator, Avocats Sans Frontières (Belgium)
  • Cherif El Kadhi – Policy analyst for Access Now in the MENA region (Tunisia)
  • Gerald Abila – Founder of Barefoot Law (Uganda)
  • Brianne McGonigle Leyh – Associate Professor of Human Rights and Global Justice (Netherlands)
Digital issues have become increasingly important in the fields of justice, security and development. While new technologies definitely offer new opportunities and can be tools to improve access to law and justice, they also represent new threats to human rights. How can we therefore ensure that the use of digital technologies in these sectors serves human rights and the strengthening of the rule of law? How can digital development be used as a tool towards more inclusion and participation, but not as an end in itself? Through the sharing of field experiences, research and investigations, this plenary session aims to explore how digital technologies can be used in projects improving access to justice in a way that is reasonable, ethical and respectful of human rights and individual freedoms.

2pm – Workshop sessions 3

Workshop 1: Access to justice in contexts of shrinking civic space (FR/EN/NL)

Workshop 6 Espace Civique EN Moderator: Longin Baranyizigiye – Programme coordinator in Eastern Africa, Avocats Sans Frontières (Uganda)
  • Lamine Benghazi – Programme coordinator, Avocats Sans Frontières (Tunisia)
  • Tristan Wibault – Lawyer at the Brussels bar (Belgium)
  • Nicole Kaneza – Strategic litigation officer, Avocats Sans Frontières (Uganda)
  • Ali Idrissa – Human Rights defender and national coordinator at Network of organisations for transparency and budget analysis (Niger)

Everywhere, the authoritarian tendencies of states are strengthening and civic space is shrinking. Despite the institutional and socio-economic differences between the different contexts, a number of similarities emerge: harassment or arrest of civil society representatives and human rights defenders, prohibition of demonstrations, violent police repression, strong interference by the executive in the functioning of the judiciary, etc. These trends have worsened as a result of the measures taken by governments around the world in response to the global pandemic crisis of Covid-19.

What forms does the shrinking of civic space take in different local contexts? What are its consequences for access to justice and the promotion of human rights? Through the sharing of experiences of mobilizations for access to justice in contexts of shrinking civic space, this workshop aims to identify judicial and extra-judicial innovative practices, and to strengthen collaborative links between actors involved in defending access to justice and human rights in these contexts.

Workshop 2: The (in)effectiveness of legal remedies in natural resource governance (EN)

Workshop 7 Ressources naturelles EN Moderator: Grazia Scocca – Legal & Policy Advisor in Business & Human Rights, Avocats Sans Frontières (Belgium)
  • Antonio Manganella – Regional director for the Euro-Mediterranean region, Avocats Sans Frontières (Tunisia)
  • Deus Valentine – Executive director and co-founder of the Centre for Strategic Litigation (Tanzania)
  • Léa Kulinowski – Legal officer, Amis de la Terre (France)

Good governance of natural resources requires the guarantee of rights, participation of affected populations and sharing of decision-making power, as well as access to justice mechanisms to resolve conflicts and seek redress. However, in many contexts of natural resource exploitation, these guarantees are far from being ensured. Based on the sharing of concrete experiences between actors, this workshop aims to highlight the challenges related to these issues, define recommendations and work on the development of new strategies to ensure access to effective remedies.

Workshop 3: How to involve young generations towards change through legal clinics? (FR)

Workshop 8 Cliniques juridiques EN Moderator: Arnaud Dandoy – Knowledge & Learning Manager for the Euro-Mediterranean region, Avocats Sans Frontières (Tunisia)
  • Fathiya Saida – General Secretary of the African Feminist Action Union at Tanger (Morocco)
  • Younous Arbaoui – Assistant professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • Ulrich Stege – Director of the IUC Clinical Legal Education Programme (Morocco)
  • Titouan Berhaut-Streel – Equality Law Clinique, Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium)

In many countries, ASF witnesses that the population is turning away from state justice systems. Slowness reigns, judicial guarantees are not respected, judicial decisions are influenced by the executive power, etc. In these diagnoses, the emphasis is rarely placed on lawyers, who have a major role to play in enabling litigants to have effective access to their rights and to justice. This is because the training process for lawyers is very selective and costly, and the content of the training itself, based on theory and doctrine, provides very little practical training and, in some contexts, is even completely disconnected from the state of knowledge and the needs of vulnerable populations. Faced with this situation, many actors have adopted the model of legal clinics to accompany and advise litigants. These clinics have a dual educational and social function. This workshop will seek to identify the good practices and difficulties encountered by the various actors in the North and South who have attempted the legal clinic adventure.

3:40pm – Plenary: How to reposition justice at the heart of social and political regulation? (EN/FR/NL)

Plénière conclusive EN Moderator: Romain Ravet, Regional director in Eastern Africa, Avocats Sans Frontières (Uganda)
  • Chantal van Cutsem – Executive director, Avocats Sans Frontières (Belgium)
  • Sophia Aziz – Programme Officer at the US Department of State (United States)
  • Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa – CEO of the Legal Aid Service Providers’ Network (Uganda)

Challenged, disdained by populations and politicians, how can the notion of the rule of law, and with it the systems of justice, be put back at the heart of social and political regulation? This concluding plenary session seeks to highlight avenues for future action, based on the perspectives of the actors concerned (governmental actors, civil society and development partners) and through a series of structuring questions: How can we consolidate the place of the public service of justice within the States? How can justice better meet and satisfy the expectations of citizens? What official development assistance strategies should be used to assert the rule of law paradigm?