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Best Practices Evaluation of Legal Aid Pilot Project in Uganda

The government of Uganda, through a private-public partnership with the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) established a pilot project at the start of 2010 to provide legal aid to indigent Ugandans. It is within the mandate of government to provide legal aid to those who for a variety of reasons may not be in a position to either afford or understand how the formal justice system works. The pilot established four (4) one-stop-service centers located at the Chief Magistrate’s courts in Tororo, Lira, Masindi and Kampala.

The Justice Centers, established as a project of the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), provided a comprehensive professional service package to its clients that ranged from legal advice, alternative dispute resolution/mediation, court representation, case referrals/follow up, legal/human rights awareness drives and counselling/psycho-social support.

Following a completion of a mid-term review, it became apparent that before scaling-up to the full project implementation, a study needed to be conducted to inform JCU/JLOS of the best-practices under the pilot, as well as figuring out the best roll-out plan and resources need.

From May 2013, and employing a mixed methods approach, we set out to interview both beneficiaries, project staff and key local and national stakeholders across the four project centers in order to build an overall picture. We then worked to determine those activities that were set out well, and those that needed adjusting, as well as determining where and how additional justice centers could be setup in order to serve the people of Uganda. By examining the distribution and location of Uganda’s poor population across Magisterial Areas, the location of other justice providers such as police, prisons and district level local governments, we calculated that a total minimum of 39 Justice Centers needed to be established across the country, with each center serving about 500,000 indigents.

By January 2014, a final assessment report was submitted to JCU.