What We Do?
This project is designed to empower and enable the citizens living in poverty, especially women and people vulnerable groups to have access to a fair, effective, expeditious, transparent and affordable system of dispute resolution at the local government level.
Village Courts (VCs) operate on the basis of the Village Courts Act 2006 (as amended in 2013) and comprise a panel of five persons (local government and villagers), empowered to deal with a range of petty civil and criminal disputes at UP level.
VCs provide a simple legal framework people can understand as the first tier of (quasi-)formal dispute resolution. They strengthen local authorities, make them more responsive to local needs and function as a bridge between informal and formal institutions.
VCs are specifically intended to provide access to justice for the rural poor and other disadvantaged and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. They are not as intimidating to rural people and are far more affordable, speedy and geographically accessible than formal courts.
Fees for submission of a case are maintained at a token level to ensure an inclusive and open process designed to ensure that the most vulnerable groups have access to justice at the local level. On the other hand, unlike mediation offered by informal justice role players, VCs have the authority to issue binding decisions.
Building on the successes and lessons learned during the interventions carried out in Phase I, Phase II of the AVCB Project has scaled-up support to activating VCs and extended the outreach to a significant portion of the country (from 7 million to 21 million people) with the introduction of VCs in targeted estimated 1,080 new Unions out of a total of 4,549 Unions.
VCs established in 351 Unions during Phase I will not be directly supported during Phase II, although support for Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) and technical assistance may be provided on an ad hoc basis.
The overall objective is to contribute to improving access to justice for disadvantaged and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. The specific objectives are:
Specific Objective 1: To make local authorities more responsive to local justice needs and offer appropriate legal services in the form of well-functioning Village Courts.
Specific Objective 2: To empower local people, especially women, the poor and vulnerable groups to seek remedies for injustices and to resolve their disputes at the local level in an expeditious, transparent and affordable manner.
The project has five Expected Results – three falling under Specific Objective 1, one under Specific Objective 2 and one cross-cutting and relevant to both Objective 1 and 2.
Specific Objective 1: To make local authorities more responsive to local justice needs and offer appropriate legal services in the form of well-functioning village courts.
This Specific Objective relates to all supply side activities, including activation of village courts and capacitation, and implementing the Decentralised Monitoring, Inspection and Evaluation (DMIE) system, and the following results.
Result 1.1: Capacity of relevant stakeholders at national and local level improved and key skills strengthened to enable Village Courts in new target Unions to function effectively by the end of the project implementation.
- Equip new targeted UPs with all necessary forms, furniture, ejlas (court bench), VCA and others.
- Training of Master Trainers and set-up of a District Training Pool (DTP) in each project district, comprising 8 to 10 lead trainers each equally inclusive of both government officials and trained NGO staff.
- Provision of intensive training by DTP on roles and functions of VCs and gender mainstreaming issues to those most closely involved in Village Court functions, i.e. Assistant Accountant-cum-Computer Operator/Village Courts Assistant (AACO/VCA); UP Secretary; UP Chair and Panel Chair.
- The design of training programs tailored to the needs of the UP membership, the Village Police, the Upazilla Nirbahi Officer (UNO) and other local government stakeholders.
- Establish clear and systematic coordination mechanisms between the Deputy Director Local Government (DDLG) and the UNO at the Upazilla level in charge of coordinating and managing the training as part of their responsibility to oversee VCs and the assisting District Facilitator (DF), NGO District Coordinator, and NGO Upazilla Supervisor, as part of their role in facilitating and overseeing the VCs.
- Integration of VCs issues into the training curriculum of National Training Institutes (National Institute of Local Government (NILG), Judicial Administration Training Institute (JATI), Bangladesh Police Academy (BPA). Bangladesh Civil Service Administration Academy (BCSAA) etc.) to ensure continued capacity building of relevant stakeholders after the end of the project.
- Delivery of a handover strategy from Village Courts Assistants (VCAs recruited through NGOs) to the Assistant Accountant-cum-Computer Operator (AACO) recruited by the government. As per LGD's plans for deployment of AACO, all target UP will have AACOs in place by the end of the implementation period of the action.
- Design and delivery of a Gender-strategy for the sensitisation of key stakeholders (UNOs, DDLGs, judges, police, Women Development Forum etc.).
Result 1.2: Legal and policy framework revised to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of VCs.
- Review and revision of the legal and policy framework with a view to facilitating referrals to the VCs by the District Courts and police, increasing access to justice for the poor, women and vulnerable groups.
- Strengthening of the coordination mechanisms between the formal and quasi-formal system: The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the Judiciary, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Bangladesh Police on the one hand, and the Local Government Division, UPs and VCs on the other.
- Promoting the representation of LGD on relevant justice coordination mechanisms such as Legal Aid Committees, Criminal Justice Coordination Committees, and Case Management Committees.
Result 1.3: GoB monitoring capacity for evaluating VCs performance is strengthened and systematized.
- Support to LGD to take over VCs performance monitoring from the 351 Unions of Phase I.
- Strengthening of institutional capacity of the Monitoring, Inspection and Evaluation (MIE) Wing of LGD, and district and Upazilla officials to manage the performance of UPs and oversee VCs through the Decentralised Monitoring, Inspection and Evaluation (DMIE) system across the newly targeted Unions.
- Strengthening LGD institutional capacity to ensure linkage or integration of the Village Courts Management Information System (VCMIS) designed during Phase I with GoB MIS.
- Strengthening of Upazilla Village Court Management Committees (UzVCMC) and District Village Court Management Committees (DVCMC) and support to other relevant committees (e.g. in the UP Law and Order Committee, Legal Aid Committees etc.) to ensure that VCs are a standing agenda item.
- Advocacy for the inclusion of the monitoring system into the updated VCs Rules.
Specific Objective Two: To empower local people, especially women, the poor and vulnerable groups to seek remedies for injustices and to resolve their disputes at the local level in an expeditious, transparent and affordable manner
This specific objective relates to the demand side of access to justice. It focuses on increasing knowledge and understanding of Village Courts both among potential beneficiaries and wider stakeholders.
Result 2.1 Beneficiaries in project areas understand the roles and functions of the Village Courts and are able to access their services when required
- Develop an outreach strategy and community mobilization initiatives about VCs for local citizens in the project target Unions.
- Development and implementation of a gender awareness raising strategy with a particular focus on improving the ability of women and the poor to make use of VCs.
- Develop, update and disseminate public education and awareness material.
- Raise outreach capacity of NGOs already active at the local level and promote their networking, primarily through the UNO at the local coordination committee.
Cross-cutting Expected Result relevant to both Specific Objective 1 and Specific Objective 2
Result 3: Evidence-base and knowledge management on VCs increased
- Develop and implement a detailed Monitoring & Evaluation and Research Plan to support the knowledge base on VCs, inform and improve interventions and disseminate results.
- Engage the media at the national and local level to promote VCs.
- Design and delivery of an exit strategy for GoB to take over the implementation of such activities after the end of the project.
- Undertake and organize South-South Cooperation activities for mutual learning and exchanging in the region.
- Consolidation of learning and awareness through a National Conference on VCs as part of the project’s exit strategy.
- Produce and print knowledge products.