Support to Legal Aid and Dispute Settlement in Family Courts

What is the project about?

In support of the Government of Egypt’s (GOE) efforts to develop the judicial system, the first phase of collaboration between the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and (UNDP) started in 2008 and was designed to introduce Legal Aid Offices (LAOs) in Family Courts as well as strengthen the mediation function of Dispute Settlement Offices (DSOs). The second phase of collaboration, which started in 2014 with support from the Government of Sweden, was designed to:

  1. Strengthen operational efficiency, transparency and integrity in family courts and family prosecution. Key activities include: Upgrading automation and networking within the family court system (family courts; legal aid offices; family prosecution; and Nasser Bank to facilitate/expedite access of women to alimony).
  2. Increase access to legal information on personal status and family courts laws. Key activities include: Upscaling the establishment of legal aid offices in family courts; Designing and implementing outreach campaigns for literate and illiterate women.

What have we accomplished so far?

To strengthen operational efficiency, transparency and integrity in family courts and family prosecution:

  • Between 2008 and 2014, and in partnership with the National Center for Judicial Studies, more than 20 trainings and workshops were organized for more than 500 participants including Judges in Family Courts, employees from Legal Aid Offices and employees from Dispute Settlement Offices. Legal experts were also invited to introduce best practices in terms of dealing with litigants.
  • In 2015:
    •  Two roundtables titled "The Role of Legal Aid offices in Achieving Swift Justice in Family Courts" were organized for 60 Judges from family courts with the aim of enhancing efficiency in handling cases.
    • A training titled “Impact of Judicial mediation on achieving justice in family Courts” was hosted in partnership with the French Cultural Center and introducing best practices on legal mediation from France.
    • With the framework of the project, MOJ, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), and the Public Prosecution signed a protocol for the automation of family courts which is designed to improve networking between legal aid offices, family courts, family prosecution and Nasser Bank and which will help reduce the litigation period and therefore increase access to swift justice, facilitate/expedite access of women to alimony, and prevent underage marriage. The project started with three family courts systems, namely Heliopolis, Luxor, Aswan and automation of these courts is almost finalized.

To increase access to legal information on personal status and family courts laws:

  • Between 2009-2015, 16 Legal Aid Offices were established- out of a total of 35 offices across Egypt). Legal Aid Offices provide legal advice for all family cases; provide legal assistance for family cases which do not require the lawyers’ signature such as (visitation rights, custody, alimony, inheritance); raise legal awareness among citizens with regards to Family Courts; provide information on the documents required for litigation processes and help litigants complete the necessary judicial procedures; support the submission of settlement requests; and women’s access to their alimony in the shortest time possible. The total number of cases supported between 2009 and 2015 reached 72,591 cases, out of which 54,776 were women (75%).
  • A Geographic Information System (GIS) for family courts and legal aid offices in Egypt was developed (http://ladsegypt.org/maps/protoctrates.html ) and can be accessed through the legal aid project website    (http://www.ladsegypt.org/)

To increase access to legal information on personal status and family courts laws:

  • Between 2009-2015, 16 Legal Aid Offices were established- out of a total of 35 offices across Egypt). Legal Aid Offices provide legal advice for all family cases; provide legal assistance for family cases which do not require the lawyers’ signature such as (visitation rights, custody, alimony, inheritance); raise legal awareness among citizens with regards to Family Courts; provide information on the documents required for litigation processes and help litigants complete the necessary judicial procedures; support the submission of settlement requests; and women’s access to their alimony in the shortest time possible. The total number of cases supported between 2009 and 2015 reached 72,591 cases, out of which 54,776 were women (75%).
  • A Geographic Information System (GIS) for family courts and legal aid offices in Egypt was developed (http://ladsegypt.org/maps/protoctrates.html ) and can be accessed through the legal aid project website    (http://www.ladsegypt.org/)

To enhance exposure to comparative experience:

  • In cooperation with the French Cultural Center, the project organized a study visit to France from 18-25 April 2015. The Egyptian delegation comprised three Counselors from the Ministry of Justice in addition to the Legal Aid Project Manager.  The purpose of the visit was to learn from France’s experience in the area of legal aid and dispute settlement. The Delegation visited the French Ministry of Justice, the Court of Appeal in addition to some legal aid and dispute settlement offices.

To enhance communication and outreach:

  • The project organized a media visit to Fayoum in March 2015 on the occasion of the launch of the Legal Aid Office, in the Abshway Family Court, which also coincided with the celebrations of the International Women’s Day. This media visit was organized as part of the project’s activities to enhance communication and outreach and was widely covered by the media
  • In May 2015, the  project organized the official launch of the Aswan Legal aid office, which was attended by the Swedish Ambassador, project partners from SIDA, and a number of UN agencies.  During the visit, the invitees acknowledged the important role of legal aid offices through their meetings with the Head of Aswan Court, legal aid employees, and beneficiaries of the Aswan office

Who finances this project?



Swedish International  Development Agency (SIDA)

UNDP

What is the project budget?

$1,971,462.47

Delivery in previous fiscal year

$502,043.22 (2015)

 

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