The Strengthening Access to Justice for Improved Human Rights Protection project aims to improve access to Justice where fundamental human rights issues arise, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable or marginalised groups. However how does one turn seemingly intangible aims into practical goals that can be achieved? What is it really that we want to achieve? How is the rule of law linked to the enjoyment of rights for individuals?
In over 10 years of working with marginalised groups, we have repeatedly identified institutional obstacles, or obstacles inbuilt in the Maltese system, that hinder individuals from effective human rights protection and redress. These obstacles have also been identified by several national and international reports including those by the Venice Commission, the European Parliament, the European Commission and in the Vanni Bonello report on Malta’s justice system. Some key problems stem from institutional or structural issues within the Maltese legal and governance system itself and we wished to find a practical way advocating for change by tackling the key obstacles.
Formulation of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Timebound) recommendations
In order not to duplicate previously published research and reports, we carried out a thorough literature review of all relevant reports. Through the process of the literature review, we extracted all the relevant recommendations that were contained in these documents. These recommendations were then prioritised and developed into SMART recommendations by following this basic process:
The SMART Objectives
The objectives extracted through the literature review and SMART process, can be roughly categorised in the following manner: Equality Legislation, Independence of the Judiciary, Independence of Specialised Tribunals, Strengthening Protection for All, Governance and Transparency, Corruption and Financial Crime, Legal Aid, and International Instruments. These were gathered in one hefty list, and have formed the basis of our advocacy with national and international stakeholders.
Of course, we also recognise the limitations and risks of using fixed goals in a dynamic and uncertain environment that is law making and governance in modern times. Whilst it easy to set specific and measurable goals in stable and predictable environments, it is not so easy when the landscape is unpredictable and can shift due to global or national events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or elections. Furthermore, some of the identified objectives can be achieved within a short-period of time, whilst others might need a more long-term approach.
Below are the SMART objectives that we have developed withing the ambit of the Strengthening Access to Justice for Improved Human Rights Protection project :
In the past months we have focused on advocating to raise awareness, and to change or amend existing legislation on many of the above objectives. Of course, it goes to say that without proper space for dialogue with government stakeholders and public consultation during decision-making processes it would be extremely hard to achieve all that we believe needs to be done. We are looking forward to continuing this work in the coming months.
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.