UNDP supports access to justice for the poor and vulnerable in YendiNov 17, 2014
The people of Yendi in the Northern Region and surrounding communities will now have access to free legal services, thanks to the support of UNDP and partners including the Legal Aid Scheme, Legal Resources Centre and the Yendi Municipal Assembly for the launch of the Legal Aid office in the area.
The Legal Aid Scheme which targets the poor and vulnerable including persons with disability, women, children and the aged provides free legal advice and education to help the poor to make informed choices on ways to secure justice and access their rights. The scheme also assists the people through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve their disputes.
UNDP’s support to the Legal Aid Scheme comes on the heels of a baseline survey of the justice sector commissioned by the Ministry of Justice in 2012 that showed that 79% of Ghanaians did not know of the existence of the Legal Aid Scheme or the services it provides. In effect, 79% of Ghanaians are not aware that if they are unable to afford legal services, the state will not only provide it but also has a mandated institution with professional staff that provides free legal services to the poor and vulnerable.
In a speech read on his behalf, the UNDP Country Director, Mr. Dominic Sam stressed that access to justice should not be the preserve of those who can afford it, but it should be available to every person. He called on the government, NGOs and other donor agencies to continue to support the promotion of access to justice for all, and more institutions to support the Legal Aid Scheme.
Citing the Ministry of Justice’s baseline survey, Mr Sam reiterated that the biggest impediment to justice delivery in Ghana is actually not the cost of the services, but the time it takes for justice to be delivered. “Justice delayed is indeed justice denied. Ultimately, justice needs to be timely. It is my fervent hope that as the reforms in the legal services enfold, these critical, thorny issues will be unravelled for a more effective justice delivery system in the country”, he said.
The Executive Director of Legal Aid Scheme, Mr. Alhassan Yahya Seini said it was heartwarming to be part of this programme because when it comes to legal aid particularly ADR and conflict resolution, the Northern Region, especially Yendi and Bimbilla, is where to be”. He intimated that with the support of the Legal Resources Centre, the programme for bringing legal aid to the people of Yendi will include a weeklong legal aid clinic which involves the services of four (4) lawyers available at locations across Yendi to assist the needy to access legal advice and ADR services.
The Regent of Dagbon Kampakuya Na Yakubu Abdulai Andani in a statement made on his behalf, said it has been his prayer to have legal aid in the area to offer assistance to the needy. “I hope that all will cooperate with the Scheme so that they can do their work diligently”, he added.
In an address to launch the Legal Aid Scheme in Yendi on behalf of the Northern Regional Minister, the Chief Executive of the Yendi Municipal Assembly, Hon Issah Zakaria stressed that the Regional Coordinating Council would play its role in ensuring that the will and purpose of Legal Aid in the municipality are realized to the fullest potential. He added that legal aid services are indisputably good for the development of the country and their services should be shared across the length and breadth of the country and beyond.
With UNDP’s support, Legal Aid Scheme has expanded coverage and access of legal services across the country from 10 regional offices to 26 regional and district offices. This is in line with UNDP’s current strategic direction which emphasizes assistance that impacts directly on the poor and disadvantaged in society.
UNDP’s continued support to the Legal Aid Scheme is varied, and includes the development of a five year strategic plan, operational and training manuals for the personnel, communication strategy to help reach out to those who really need the services, and training of staff to improve the efficiency and quality of services provided to the clients.