Methods to monitor administrative and judicial practices

Wednesday 7 October 2009 by International Programme Coordination

1. The access to information

The populations are confronted to the complexity of administrative and judicial systems, the costs of procedures, the lack of human, financial, and time resources, the lack of a legal framework and political will, problems of governance (poor culture of public services, weak adhesion to the transparency principles and accountability obligations, and weak citizen participation), conflicts of competences at the administrations’ level, the impenetrability of administrations which communicate very little and are not well prepared for public service, some officials’ willful withholding of information, the solving of problems on a case by case basis, the absence of homogeneous policies, and the sometimes generalized corruption.

The populations do not systematically have access to information. Illiteracy or the non-understanding of the official language represent two of the main barriers. The access to information must be guaranteed to all through a law. In India, the access to information was very problematic until a law was promulgated on the right of information. Since then, community-based organizations demand all the information they are interested in. Thanks to this law, one is able to know for instance which employer pays assessments and for which employee. However, such laws need to be really implemented, which is not the case in Senegal and Benin. In the Philippines, in many instances, information is withheld from the population so that practices will not be put into question. Besides, when public authorities carry out consultations, those are not very substantial.

When the right to information exists in a country, the administrative staff has to be informed of such obligation which they might ignore, and pressure must be exerted on their superiors to ensure the respect of the said right. It is sometimes easier to have access to provisional budgets or planned policies than to what has actually been achieved. It can be wise to set up a consultation framework with public authorities in order to disseminate the information, as was done in Cameroon.

One must also inform the population of their right and means to make it effective. It gives people access to local governance and citizen participation.

In the meantime or at the same time, one should use the existing, formal or informal channels (personal or institutional relationships, public information services in general) as well as our networks, partners or specialized organizations like unions, as each has its own sources of information. Even if the access to information is guaranteed, it can be necessary to popularize such information and make it effectively accessible and understandable to the population.

Decentralization as a mode of management aims at dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people or citizen. As such it is supposed to facilitate communication and collaboration. However, it is not necessarily the case if the transfer of responsibility does not involve as well a means and competences transfer from the central administration to de-concentrated and decentralized organs (1). It is a long and complicated process with a view to achieving efficient work.

In some countries like Cameroon, decentralization provided towns with positive tools such as the participative budget planning with the creation of local budget committees in charge of teaching citizens how to work together with the authorities, consultation frameworks, local development plans, and the possibility for civil society organizations to make recommendations, etc.

(1) De-concentrated organs represent the central power at local level (e.g.: prefectures) whereas decentralized organs are autonomous and have been transferred some competences from the central power (e.g.: regions, provinces).

2. Training and assistance in claiming rights

Civil society plays an important role not only in monitoring and orienting public policies and legislation but also in monitoring administrative and judicial practices so as to ensure their compliance with the legislation, identify problems and find solutions. Civil and political rights are generally more justiciable than ESC rights. There are less legal tools to confront ESC rights violations. In India, for instance, despite the constitutional obligations, it took 60 years of struggle to make education compulsory for all. Rights have to be incorporated to legislation to become enforceable.

The role of civil society organizations is to inform people of their rights, the existing laws and the functioning that should characterize administrative and judicial institutions. This enables people to have access to, and understand the information (simple explanation of the administrative and judicial “jargon”, translation into local languages).

For example, in Mali, some communities are ruled by customary law which can be in contradiction with positive law. The paralegals trained by the DEME SO Legal Clinic thus disseminate positive law to the population in order to avoid possible misunderstandings. Various actions can be carried out:

  • implementation of training programs,
  • creation of training and help centers,
  • production of pedagogical material, radio broadcasts and audio tapes on legal matters, etc.

One must always remember to make the actions sustainable and duplicate the knowledge and skills by training people who will act locally, and paralegals who should then able to train in turn other community members. Thus, in India, SEWA encouraged the creation of decentralized and democratic community-based organizations and popular institutes; in Cameroon, it is Legal Clinics of Information and Citizenship Education (CIJEC - Cliniques d’Information Juridique et d’Éducation à la Citoyenneté) which are created.

Stages in setting up and running Legal Clinics of Information and Citizenship Education by ASSOAL and the Réseau National des Habitants du Cameroun (National Network of People Living in Cameroon - RNHC)

  • Creation of working groups per neighborhood
  • Mobilization of resource people
  • Creation of awareness raising material
  • Planning of awareness raising meetings
  • Identification of monitoring requests
  • Drafting of the case sheets and reports
  • Circulation of the reports

The organizations are also here to assist people in claiming their rights and executing usually rather complex procedures by offering them: lawyer services to compensate for the cost of justice, translators so that they understand the debates, or a support in developing a dossier to obtain a land title for instance.

When a problem has been raised, the first stage is to carry out a study or investigation in order to evaluate the practices, identify causes and consequences, make recommendations, and propose solutions. The study must include all the stakeholders concerned: both the populations and partners (administrative or judicial staff, their immediate superiors, ministries, associations, etc.). Several methodologies will be used: documentary analysis, interviews, groups of discussion, etc. Once the study over, the different stakeholders concerned will need to be informed of the results, and a report will have to be drafted and widely circulated.

Stages in studying the land status of informal settlements, the social capital, and social and environmental risks factors, by ASSOAL and the RNHC

  • Investigations to identify beneficiaries and partners
  • Documentary analysis conducted within the communities, chefferies, towns and land administration, and among landowners
  • Research work to determine the property map
  • Focus group with the beneficiaries: check and reformulate all the working hypotheses and find solutions
  • Feedback to the concerned population and partners
  • Identification of the constraints and difficulties specific to each mapped habitat and validation of possible solutions
  • Drafting of the study report
  • Replication and circulation of the report to the stakeholders

As a collective action is much more efficient, NGOs can help people gather into associations, networks, community mutual health insurance companies or cooperatives, create cooperation and social mediation spaces bringing together all the stakeholders concerned, and structure their claims (creation of messages, contact with the media).

It may be wise to organize a one-day workshop following the preliminary work of investigation to analyze the situation in more details and make precise propositions aiming at solving specific problems. For example, the DEME SO Legal Clinic organized in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, the National Directorate of Penitentiary Administration and Supervised Education (DNAPES - Direction Nationale de l’Administration Pénitentiaire et de l’Éducation Surveillée) and civil society, a one-day workshop on the alternatives to imprisonment in Mali. At the end of the day, the decision-makers, the Ministry’s and penitentiary administration’s officers, and civil society’s leaders exhorted the State to introduce community service into judicial legislation.

The implementation of mini-projects in administrative or judicial institutions allows showing the real success of certain good practices. Thus, ASSOAL took part in launching a social housing program on a trial basis . Likewise, the DEME SO Legal Clinic implemented a rehabilitation mini-project through the production of objects at the Special Reeducation and Rehabilitation Center for Women and Minors (Centre Spécial de Rééducation et de Réinsertion pour Femmes et Mineurs - es) located in Bollé.

Rehabilitation mini-project through the production of objects at the Special Reeducation and Rehabilitation Center for Women and Minors, located in Bollé, Mali, by the DEME SO Legal Clinic

Following a study tour in Netherlands with a view to taking after the Dutch policy regarding penal matters and exchanging with prisons’ directors, the DEME SO Legal Clinic implemented a rehabilitation mini-project at the Bollé Center.

The strategy was the following:

  • Drafting of the project document.
  • Organization of a field visit to identify and list Bollé detainees’ needs in terms of learning and professional training
  • Identification of target groups (women and primary juvenile delinquents)
  • Interviews with the penitentiary staff (jailors and supervisors)
  • Drafting of the report on female and minor detainees’ learning and training needs
  • Submission of the report to the Ministry of Justice and the DNAPES
  • Organization of meetings with the DNAPES on the report’s results.
  • Set-up of a collaboration through a Management Committee composed of the person in charge of penitentiary matters at DEME SO and the DNAPES’ managers
  • Setting-up of rehabilitation activities (by setting up learning and training workshops and supplying them with raw material)
  • Distribution of the detainees following the latter’s choices
  • Recruitment of workshops’ supervising teams
  • Setting up learning and training sessions
  • Monitoring of the sessions and objects made by the detainees
  • Progressive storage of the products

Communication is always essential in such process to raise people’s and decision-makers’ awareness of the issues raised. It is necessary to develop a communications plan with local and national media. The DEME SO Legal Clinic thus organized a “Detainee Week” to show decision-makers and the population that another form of prison was possible beyond pure and simple imprisonment, based on the mini-project implement at the Bollé Center.

Organization of a “Detainee Week” by the DEME SO Legal Clinic This “Detainee Week”’s ultimate goal was to make visible what was happening in Bollé in terms of training and preparation for the detainees’ re-socialization. Detainee Week implementation strategy:

  • Set-up of an Organization Commission gathering together the Ministry of Justice of Cameroon, DEME SO and the DNAPES
  • Reservation of the meeting room and building of the exhibition stands
  • Development of the day’s program and setting of a date related to a memorable and universal event likely to bring together government members, such as December 10 – anniversary date of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which coincides with the space of democratic interpellation in Mali.
  • Sending of invitation letters to authorities and civil society organizations Making of TV adverts for the event
  • Event placed under the patronage of the Ministry of Justice along with other government members
  • Organization of the Detainee Week which proved to be a total success - DEME SO received congratulation letters from the Ministry of Justice and the DNAPES

After the success of the first edition, the State later institutionalized the Detainee Week on its third edition in 2001, and eventually adopted a national policy of rehabilitation.

NGOs also serve as a facilitator to bring different groups together and unite them into a more global action at national level, and to implement advocacy, monitoring plans as well as a plan for capitalizing on the acquired knowledge. So NGOs will be able to:

  • draft a global report on all the local studies,
  • organize a national workshop and feedback meetings,
  • promote the creation of a national platform,
  • encourage the creation of a consultation framework with public authorities,
  • analyze, develop and propose a national strategic plan,
  • analyze, develop and propose laws and regulations,
  • evaluate and implement a capacity building program for stakeholders,
  • ensure the monitoring and capitalization of the results and changes.

Methods to monitor administrative and judicial practices in India, by SEWA

  • raise people’s awareness of the right to information, the existing administrative and judicial measures, and the conditions of access thereto;
  • set up village committees, fora, community-based organizations, and popular institutes of training and exchange of experience;
  • create tripartite councils (with government, workers’ and SEWA’s representatives) in order to solve workers’ problems;
  • establish a partnership between the government and female workers groups;
  • carry out advocacy, lobbying and monitoring actions at national level for the implementation of the existing legislation and the development of new policies.

It is essential to solve situations at local level but also to spread the debate so that existing laws or court rulings and public policies are implemented, as well as new legislations adopted in order to make sure that this situation will never recur, and to make our achievements sustainable.

For instance, studies are being carried out by State representatives, financial and technical partners, and civil society organizations in Cameroon for the development of a national habitat and social housing policy and program. Likewise, in Mali, following the one-day workshop on the alternatives to imprisonment organized by the DEME SO Legal Clinic in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, the DNAPES and civil society, which promoted the incorporation of community service in judicial legislation in favor of primary and resourceless delinquents (women, young people and minors), a commission was created to develop a bill which was then adopted by the national assembly of Mali, and an executive order promulgated by the President of the Republic in 2002.

Regarding the monitoring of administrative and judicial practices, it is necessary to:

  • take time to learn, discuss and listen. Those are long and slow processes, know all the stakeholders and their roles,
  • train populations as well as the administrative and judicial staff on rights, have local people participate - instead of carrying out actions without them, one should assist them in claiming their rights and having a better structure (civil society’s capacity building),
  • work in networks and share experiences,
  • work in cooperation and partnership with the different public or private stakeholders,
  • create strategic alliances with various powers and authorities: to launch contradictory dynamics,
  • mobilize resources and finance exemplary actions (multi-partnership)‏,
  • inform local and national media,
  • implement an advocacy and lobbying plan.

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