By Rachel Aicher, Director of Advocacy & Partnerships
With legal aid providers facing unprecedented challenges in 2020, it’s critical for our community to come together, share knowledge, and coordinate action.
Every other year, the ILF and its partners convene justice leaders, practitioners, and advocates from across the globe to discuss the most pressing issues impacting criminal legal aid. Our conference is a rare opportunity to compare the practicalities of public defense and to share lessons learned building legal aid systems around the world. The coronavirus pandemic has made this gathering more urgent than ever.
That’s why we’re excited to announce the 4th International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, to be held online September 14-18, 2020. This is a special convening amidst COVID-19 to support access to justice for all, hosted virtually by the Public Defender’s Office of the State of Rio de Janeiro.
This year’s conference themes include:
Advocating for Release & Protecting the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty
Holistic Representation & Access to Justice for Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups
Combating Systemic Racial & Ethnic Discrimination
While we’d love to see you in person, your work and ideas are too important to wait.
COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities around the world, while court closures and emergency restrictions have thrown up new barriers to fair treatment that disproportionately hurt low-income people and other vulnerable groups. With the coronavirus spreading, just a few days behind bars can turn into a death sentence.
Here in the United States, the virus hit communities of color hardest, impacting not only health, but all other measures of safety and well-being. Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement galvanized action against police brutality and systemic racism, resonating around the world. Across the ILF’s country programs, our staff have grappled with vastly different scenarios, from complete lockdowns to the prospect of shifting to online courts.
Recognizing that we all have much to learn, this year’s conference will bring together national-level representatives, legal aid providers, civil society members, and other experts to address global challenges in legal aid amidst COVID-19. We’ll focus on practical and achievable outcomes, best practices, and innovative solutions to ensure access to justice for all.
We have reached out to legal aid providers and partners in over 100 countries to participate and hope this year’s conference will be the most diverse in our history.
This year’s conference will be hosted virtually by the Public Defender's Office of the State of Rio de Janeiro, organized in partnership with the ILF, the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The event is also supported by the Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the National College of General Public Defenders of Brazil (CONDEGE), the Public Defender's Office of the Union, and the National Association of Public Defenders of Brazil (ANADEP).
This conference series was founded to implement the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, which call on every country to put in place a comprehensive legal aid system that is accessible and effective, has nationwide reach, and is available to all without discrimination. Past conferences have been held in Johannesburg, South Africa (2014), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2016), and Tbilisi, Georgia (2018).
Since 2014, we have brought together hundreds of justice stakeholders from more than 50 countries.
You can learn more about the international legal aid conference here. We hope you’ll register to join us!