Pro bono lawyers contribute to sustainable development

6 Sep 2016

Bali, Indonesia, 6 September – ASF calls for the strengthening of pro bono practices, which can bring about positive and sustainable change among societies and justice systems. This message has been shared at the 5th Pro Bono Conference held in Bali last week, and will be further disseminated in other international events.

 Pro bono lawyers use their skills and provide their services on a voluntarily basis and without payment. This practice is essential because it helps making justice accessible for those who are unable to afford them, or lack the necessary means to realise their rights. This is why pro bono culture should be further promoted and strengthened.

The work of pro bono lawyers does not only impact the lives of individual rights seekers; it also likely to impact at the level of their societies. “Lawyers may have a positive impact on social change, not only by inspiring a progressive jurisprudence, but also by acting on the society’s behavior”, explains Bruno Langhendries, ASF Access to Justice Expert.

Image BrunoBruno Langhendries, ASF’s access to justice expert at the 5th Asia Pro Bono Conference ©ASF

ASF’s legal aid programs have shown that change does not come from the provision of traditional legal aid or pro bono services. These are often too much focused on legal and judicial institutions that are sometimes rigid, overburdened or simply ineffective. “Change may occur if there is a shift in the way legal services are directed to empower and give autonomy to act to communities and marginalized people, rather than solely focus on lawyers’ and institutions”, says the ASF expert.

These ideas and ASF experience have been shared at the 5th Promo Bono Conference which took place in Bali from 29 August to 1 September 2016. This event brought together 113 presenters together with participants from more than 25 countries, sharing and learning  together on ways to further strengthen pro bono and access to justice in Asia and globally. Participants included lawyers, judges, legal educators, students, corporations, governmental officers, international NGOs’ representatives and members of local civil society organisations.

The event was not just a conference; it is a movement that supports, fosters and develops pro bono partnership and initiatives across the Asia region. ASF has been part of the conference’s programme committee. “This year’s conference theme is totally in line with ASF’s commitment, as social change is seen as the yardstick to define our involvement. It means that this movement is contributing to improving access to justice for the most vulnerable population. We are grateful to Bridges Across Borders South East Asia (BABSEA-CLE), which leads and brings energy to the movement since the very beginning”, concludes Mr. Langhendries.

ASF contribution to the 5th Pro Bono Conference in Bali is part of a series of international meetings and events focusing on access to justice and sustainable development. Next rendez-vous include an international conference organized by ASF on Lawyering for Change, which will take place in Brussels on 31 November- 1 December 2016. For more information on this event, please click here.

Picture: ASF Lawyer assists farmer in defending her rights, East DR Congo ©ASF

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