On Wednesday January 22, Deputy Chief of Mission John P. Desrocher joined the Secretary General of Council of Ministers, Mr. Ali Mohsen Al-Alaq, in opening the First National Conference on Legal Aid Clinics at the Royal Tulip Hotel in Baghdad.
The event was attended by ministers, members of parliament, and regional and local government officials from fifteen Iraqi governorates.
During his opening remarks, Mr. Desrocher noted that "the U.S Embassy, through the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Access to Justice Project, supports Iraqi civil society organizations to improve vulnerable populations' knowledge of their rights, and assist people in accessing the legal benefits to which they are entitled. Since 2010, the project has helped over 18,000 vulnerable Iraqis understand their rights and access legal services."
The two-day conference, held under the auspices of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers (COMSEC) and supported by the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, marks the beginning of a partnership between Iraqi civil society organizations (CSOs) and the central government in support of national legal aid at the provincial level.
This partnership follows a pilot initiative between legal assistance CSOs and COMSEC's Citizens' Affairs Office. CSO lawyers staffed a legal help desk in Baghdad to provide a one-stop-shop for citizens to resolve their complaints. As a result of the pilot's success, COMSEC will expand the legal help desks to all 15 governorate offices.
USAID's Access to Justice Program, which helped convene the conference, works with central, provincial, and local governments as part of the cooperation outlined in the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. This conference provided an important forum for Iraqi officials from across the country to work together with civil society and legal experts to develop a strategy regarding institutionalizing a legal aid framework for Iraq.
(Source: Embassy of the United States)