QUETTA: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organised an event on Sunday with prominent members of civil society organisations in attendance aimed at assisting the government of Balochistan in its efforts for improving citizens’ access to justice.

The initiative was undertaken under the umbrella of a project to develop a Rule of Law Roadmap for Balochistan.

This project is being executed jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations for Women (UN Women), funded by the Department for International Development (DFID).

The purpose of having consultation with citizen organisations was to have their views and recommendations as to how best efforts can be made to make justice services affordable, accessible and easily available to common people and to discuss with them the rationale for reforms, including priority areas and timelines.

A UNODC representative briefed the participants about the process of developing the “Rule of Law Roadmap” for Balochistan that is currently being finalised in terms of its design, scope and nature of targeted reforms in close collaboration with the justice sector institutions, including judiciary, police, prosecution, prisons and law departments.

The focus of Rule of Law Roadmap for Balochistan is to ensure strategic priorities identified by the rule of law institutions and the relevant stakeholder to deliver tangible results through a coherent package of holistic reform targeting all the relevant rule of law sectors.

Participants of the consultation stressed on the importance of engaging and encouraging civil society organisations, particularly those working on relevant areas, such as, legal rights awareness, provision of legal aid, juvenile justice, community policing, gender, human rights and public safety matters. It was agreed that civil society will explore entry points through which they can work through mechanisms supported by state authorities such as Access to Justice Development Fund managed by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, Skill Development Fund, Social Sector Development Fund, Legal Empowerment Fund and District Legal Empowerment Committees.

The participants were mindful of limited capacities of civil society organisations in term of their outreach, advocacy and communications. They further suggested establishing an innovation fund for capacity building through which new ideas are encouraged and accredited. Other than that, informal justice system, modernisation of levies and their eventual absorption were also among the topics that were discussed.

Additionally, members of the civil society organisations called for standards setting, constitutional/legal compliance, linkage with courts, legal cover and monitoring of Jirgas and Panchayat. Data collection regar­ding gender violence and crimes, human rights violations and facilities for juveniles, jail inmates and rights of minorities were other key subjects that were debated.

The participants expressed their confidence and trust in the United Nations’ team and appreciated the ongoing efforts to sincerely support the government of Balochistan for reforming its justice sector so that the legal rights of people are protected, all citizens are provided with legal protection and adequate services are delivered by the state for those who remain the most vulnerable and marginalised in Balcohistan.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2017