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To improve the access to justice for disadvantaged and marginalised groups of people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Local Government Division with support from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Porgramme (UNDP) launched Activating Village Courts in Bangladesh (AVCB) Phase -II, at the Parjatan Conference Room in Rangamati, on 25 September.

Following a successful implementation of phase -I from 2006-2015, phase-II of the AVCB project started in 2016 in 1,080 unions, under a tri-partnership with EU, UNDP and GoB, for creating wider access to dispute resolutions services for the rural poor people. The project is now further scaled up to CHT with additional 4.5 million Euro funding from EU to make local authorities more responsive to local justice needs and offer legal services. It will also empower local people, especially women and vulnerable people. With this additional 4.5 million Euro, the total EU contribution to AVCB II project stands at 28.3 million Euro.

Mesbahul Islam, Secretary of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs addressed the launching event as the chief guest and said, “The government is keen to bring public services on people’s doorsteps. The village court is one of them that can improve lives and ensure peace and harmony in the rural areas, like CHT.” He further added, “The project will also strengthen the local government bodies in CHT, making them more responsive to local needs and establish peaceful co-existence.”

Attending the launching ceremony, EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Renjse Teerink underscored the importance of village courts for the marginalised groups of people in CHT to ensure the access to justice in quick and affordable manner. She said, “European Union is always committed to strengthen social justice in Bangladesh so that, the vulnerable community especially rural poor women, can access to justice and have the possibility to find a solution to their disputes and conflicts at community level”

Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh said, “Without development there is no peace and without peace there is no justice. Access to justice for all therefore is a must to ensure human rights and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, leaving no one behind. Village courts are playing a vital role to ensure the access to justice to the poor people in 1080 unions of Bangladesh and now also in CHT.” He opined that the project would further strengthen the peace and security of the region.

Among others, Roxana Quader, National Project Director, AVCBII and Additional Secretary, LGD, Van Nguyen, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh also spoke. Earlier Mohammad Tanvir Azam Siddique, Deputy Secretary, LGD and Sarder Asaduzzaman, National Project Coordinator, AVCB II presented the keynote paper on ‘Strengthening Traditional Justice System in the CHT’. The event was also attended by Hill District Councils and Representatives of CHT Regional Council.

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