Authorities in North Macedonia are committed to work together on an effective referral system that contributes towards improving the access to justice. This was underlined during the third meeting of the National Co-ordination Body for implementation of the Law on Free Legal Aid (NCB) that took place on 8 July 2020 in a form of an online meeting.
34 participants from the key institutions in the field of free legal aid such as the Ministry of Justice and its Regional Offices (ROs), Bar Association, civil society organisations (CSOs) and Legal Clinics authorized for providing free legal aid, as well as the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, had the opportunity to discuss the need for establishment of a Referral Protocol and Directory of organisations as two essential outcomes of the NCB.
The participants highlighted the importance of an effective referral system that increases the likelihood that the citizens will receive free legal aid which corresponds to their specific needs and interests. They agreed that appropriate referrals ensure that clients are routed to the most suitable and capable service providers and adopted the Guidelines for establishing of a Referral Protocol and Directory of organisations, prepared by the Council of Europe consultants Mr. John Eams and Mr. Goce Kocevski.
The participants agreed that a working group shall be established to prepare the first drafts of the Protocol and the Directory, which will be presented and adopted at the next meeting of this Body.
During this meeting were also shared some achievements and challenges identified in the implementation of the Law on Free Legal Aid in COVID-19 circumstances. In particular, the participants have developed a fruitful discussion regarding the challenges in the practice of the MoJ’s ROs concerning cases of domestic violence and challenges in the practice of the Centers for social work and Ministry of labor and social policy when dealing with this type of cases.
The meeting has been organised by the action “Supporting enhanced access to higher quality Free Legal Aid services in North Macedonia” which is part of the joint European Union/Council of Europe programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022”.
Guidelines for establishing of a Referral Protocol and Directory of organisations