Together with with Russia’s Centre for the Development of Legal Clinics, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) organised an international round table devoted to cooperation between legal clinics and NGOs. It took place on 21 October 2016. The event was held on the margins of the 7th All-Russia Conference on Legal Clinics, at the Moscow Lomonosov State University.
“Some 160 experts from legal clinics across 30 Russian regions gathered in Moscow for the conference,” Polina Baigarova, head of the Legal Dialogue programme of the CSF, said. “We decided to use this opportunity to look into possible ways of developing common projects.”
Participants tried to determine how legal clinics could contribute to it and how NGOs and legal clinics from Russia and the EU could cooperate.
More than 20 experts from Russia, Spain, Finland, Poland and Switzerland attended the event. The discussions showed a big demand that exists among representatives of legal clinics for international formats for exchange of experiences.
“We just opened the first legal clinic in Helsinki,” said Ketino Minashvili from the Helsinki Law Clinic. “And I think countries that are just starting to open them should consult with their Russian colleagues on how to organise them. We see from our experience that this is necessary. We haven’t had enough practice, so we would benefit from such cooperation.”
“I am sure that we can learn a lot from each other,” agreed Filip Czernicki from the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation. “If, say, a legal clinic is willing to launch a more specialised division, it should look for a partner clinic in a different country in order to learn how to start this new project.”
At the same time this round table is a stepping stone to joining forces of legal clinics and human rights NGOs in order provide free legal aid, said Alexander Radevich from the Centre of Social and Educational Initiatives in Russia’s city of Izhevsk. “We’re living in a global world that presents common problems to its citizens. Social groups in need of free legal aid grow wider, demands for those who provide it become more specialised and sophisticated,” Radevich said.
Human rights NGOs and legal clinics had a lot experience in defending and educating people, he added. “It is obvious that NGOs and legal clinics can benefit from each other’s experience. Together, NGOs and legal clinics can make providing free and quality legal aid to a wide range of people more efficient,” Radevich said.
“We can learn from each other. We have a lot in common, and, more importantly, we are willing to cooperate in the best interests of our countries’ residents. It means legal dialogue will expand.”
Read more about the next round of discussions and first concrete project ideas: Christoph König, “International Cooperation of Legal Clinics and NGOs. Afterthoughts on the Legal Dialogue meeting in Paris” 1https://legal-dialogue.org/joint-forces-of-international-law-clinics.