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Under the auspices of the Bar Human Rights Committee, Megan Carroll and I travelled down to Zimbabwe earlier this month to deliver a training programme in human rights for a group of lawyers and others interested in electoral observation work. The context of politics of Zimbabwe meant that we were very much focussed on the international norms and frameworks for observation and did not get involved in day to day political issues.
There were a number of striking aspects of the programme that are worth reflecting on from the perspective of designing and delivering these kinds of programmes. The most important is that when you are working with a group of professionals, in the field, who have seen and experienced things that you will hopefully never see and experience, it is best to be humble and let them lead you.
There is a tension here. We had a several hundred page long document of international law that the lawyers in the team wanted to deliver and have the participants work through. But the best learning that was going to happen was between the participants. They could always take the book home and read it. We reached a happy compromise, and herein lies another lesson – change, adapt and invent. Too many facilitators treat their plans as check lists that need to be worked through so that the M&E report can be filled in. The energy in the room is the only energy that really matters.
The compromise worked because some of the group were lawyers who wanted and were hungry for working through the material in the handbook. The others were activists who tolerated it but always wanted to bring it back to examples, cases and experiences. This they did and in the process the learning energy started to kick-in. Fairly quickly they were sharing stories and experiences. There was a lot they did not know about each other’s’ work and experiences. They had a great deal more to teach and share with each other than we had to give them. And we had a great deal more to learn from them.
There were some technical issues we could help with. There were also aspects of follow-up to some of the shared experiences that we will engage with the group on in the future. But the abiding experience was of a dynamic group of professionals, battle scarred but undefeated and waiting for the next election with fear and hope.
Posted by Brian Brivati, Senior Advisor
The South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) is a civil society organisation based in Juba. Its mission is to strive for justice in society and respect for human rights and the rule of law in South Sudan. The SSLS manages projects in a number of areas, including legal aid and paralegal training, human rights awareness-raising, and capacity-building for legal professionals, traditional authorities, and government institutions.
Integrity survey designer James Khalil PhD recently assisted SSLS in the design of their Rural Justice System Assessment, as part of the wider Rural Access to Justice Project, a ten-month long project funded by Pact Sudan through a grant from the U.S. State Department.
The aim of the research component is to improve the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the justice systems in six rural counties of South Sudan, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. The six counties at the centre of this project are Budi and Ikotos in Eastern Equatoria, Akobo and Pibor in Jonglei, and Renk and Nasir in Upper Nile.