Lawyering for Change: implementing change through law: an international challenge

Access to justice and developmentNews

Brussels, 12 December 2016 – Over 250 participants, including fifty speakers from fifteen different countries around the world, met in Brussels for ASF’s Lawyering for Change conference. The aim: to develop the idea of change through lawyering together. The event highlighted the need to widen the role of lawyers and to enable those seeking justice to take greater action in a global situation where millions of people in both hemispheres have no access to justice. This lack of access to justice is an obstacle to socio-economic development and to the rule of law, in that these people seeking justice have no way of asserting their rights. “In view of this disturbing reality, we wanted to examine the role of lawyers and of civil society. This was our starting point for the Lawyering for Change conference,” explains Bruno Langhendries, access to justice expert at ASF. On 31 November and 1 December 2016, over 250 professionals came together in Brussels: lawyers, representatives of bar associations (including DRC, Burundi, Central African Republic, Tunisia, Nepal and Belgium) and of civil society, researchers and development specialists. Through plenary sessions and eight thematic workshops, everyone had the chance to discuss their experiences and debate key challenges such as helping people seeking justice, strategic litigation, the need to influence policies related to access to justice or the link between access to justice and sustainable development. Two trends seemed to emerge from these debates. First, according to Mr Langhendries, “in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people seeking justice, the lawyer of tomorrow will have to interact more closely with other stakeholders, such as para legals, doctors or social support services.” Finally, legal empowerment is a significant factor for change in the struggle to create better access to justice. “People and communities seeking justice must be given the opportunity to act to make their rights a reality“, believes the ASF expert. A full report on the sessions and workshops will be published on the ASF website before the end of December. ASF would like to thank all participants, speakers, sponsors and supporters for their contribution to the conference. Pictures of the conference are available on our Flick account.