Strengthening Access to Justice for Improved Human Rights Protection

January 2021 – December 2022

The Active Citizens Fund (ACF) in Malta established under the specific Programme Area for Civil Society part of the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021.

Project Background

‘Strengthening Access to Justice for Improved Human Rights Protection’ has the objective of improving access to justice for individuals wishing to strengthen their human rights protection in those instances when they feel that they have been violated. Our work has made us aware of the numerous human rights challenges faced by various groups of persons, primarily vulnerable or marginalised groups such as members of the LGBTIQ+ community, refugees and migrants, the elderly, children, persons with disabilities and those at risk of poverty, persons involved in prostitution, etc.

Whilst Malta has a relatively strong human rights regime that seeks to protect a long list of fundamental human rights, the practical protection offered to persons whose rights have been violated or might be violated is rather weak.

In several of our earlier projects, alone and also with several other NGO colleagues, we identified institutional obstacles to effective to justice for human rights protection. These obstacles have also been identified by several esteemed reports and research, including by the Venice Commission, the European Parliament, the European Commission and in the Vanni Bonello report on Malta’s justice system.

Examples include: difficulty accessing legal aid services, quality of legal aid services, capacity of administrative tribunals to cope with caseload, lack of expertise of some tribunals in relevant matters, lack of enforcement mechanisms, lack of protection of victims and more.

Project Description

The list of challenges is in indeed a long one, therefore the project will initially conduct a prioritisation exercise with key stakeholders in order to ensure that we target the most pressing and relevant obstacles. On the basis of this consultation exercise, our advocacy initiatives will target those entities and persons in authority that have a direct or indirect influence of the relevant legislation and/or policies.

Together with targeted advocacy activities, we will also organise a public conference where our recommendations will be presented to a wider audience, in order to gather further support and understanding of the issues vulnerable and marginalised groups face when seeking to access justice for their human rights protection.

Project Activities

More specifically, ‘Strengthening Access to Justice for Improved Human Rights Protection’ will be composed of the following key stages:

  • Stage 1 – Formulation of SMART recommendations. We will perform a literature review of all related recommendations already made, so as to avoid duplication of efforts and to build on previous expertise and efforts by other professional entities. The literature review will constitute the technical input for a Consultation Roundtable that will seek to prioritise challenges/recommendations and map out the list of stakeholders to target.
  • During this stage we will also carry out a survey with stakeholders in order to inform us as to the perceptions and recommendations in relation to access to justice for marginalised groups. The link to the survey:
  • Stage 2 – Influencing laws and policies. The prioritised list of recommendations will be published in the form of input papers to facilitate understanding of the core issues how communities are affected by them. The input papers will be the basis on which we will organise a series of bilateral meetings with those stakeholders who may influence the relevant laws/policies. A public conference will be organised where the input papers will be presented and discussed, with experts delivering keynote presentations and working groups discussing details.
  • Furthermore, we will also publish a number of editorials, newspaper articles and blog posts in order to create a culture of understanding on the issues we are flagging. A list of our published articles can be found here:
  • Stage 3 – Monitoring and evaluation. Although listed here, this Stage will be actually a horizontal and on-going one. At the project’s outset, the literature review will be used to populate our advocacy database, listing all the laws and policies that need to be influenced in order to achieve our goals. The database will also act as baseline data and include the relevant stakeholder for each law/policy. Advocacy progress will be entered and monitored carefully. At the project’s end it will provide input into the project’s evaluation exercise.

For more information contact Project Leader Neil Falzon, Project Expert Carla Camilleri or Project Manager Katarzyna DeWilde.

About the funder:

The EEA Grants represent the contribution of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway towards a green, competitive and inclusive Europe. There are two overall objectives: reduction of economic and social disparities in Europe, and to strengthen bilateral relations between the donor countries and 15 EU countries in Central and Southern Europe and the Baltics.
The three donor countries cooperate closely with the EU through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). The donors have provided €3.3 billion through consecutive grant schemes between 1994 and 2014. For the period 2014-2021, the EEA Grants amount to €1.55 billion. The priorities for this period are:

(i) Innovation, Research, Education and Competitiveness; (ii) Social Inclusion, Youth Employment and Poverty Reduction; (iii) Environment, Energy, Climate Change and Low Carbon Economy; (iv) Culture, Civil Society, Good Governance and Fundamental Rights and (iv) Justice and Home Affairs.

The EEA Grants are jointly financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, whose contributions are based on their GDP. Eligibility for the Grants mirror the criteria set for the EU Cohesion Fund aimed at member countries where the Gross National Income (GNI) per inhabitant is less than 90% of the EU average.