Equal Rights Initiative (ERI) and Villa College have inaugurated an International Conference on Implementing People-Focused Access to Justice. The Conference is
conducted in collaboration with Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur, India, and is supported by USAID and National Democratic Institute (NDI). Representatives from
15 countries including UK, USA, South Africa, Ireland, Germany, Ukraine, China, South Korea, Nigeria, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia attended the conference. More than 60 papers were received from Maldives and overseas academics and students. Villa College management has mentioned that they will be publishing the research contribution in form of three edited books by Faculty of Shariah and Law, where one book will be published by international publishers and
two books will be published by Villa College publications contributing to the legal literature in the Maldives. Speaking at the Inaugural Session of the Conference, Ismail WIsham, President of the Bar Council of Maldives and Chief Guest of the Conference, stressed upon the value of such intellectual discourses and how it contributes to the nation building of a nation praising the collaborative efforts of the partnering institutes. The Conference included a high-level panel on “People-Focused Access to Justice in the Maldives” and panel discussions on Access to Justice for the Underprivileged and Revisiting the Connections between Access to Justice and the Rule of Law. The Conference also featured five technical sessions covering different aspects of people-focused access to justice. The two-day conference held at Villa College, in hybrid mode to allow for maximum participation, discussed how Maldives is progressing in its justice sector reform commitments more broadly and contributing to enhance efficiency, transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness of the legal and justice system in the Maldives and advancing equal access to justice for all. The Conference also built awareness and dialogue on the provision of legal aid and defined the needs and strategies to build capacities of professionals to ensure service delivery. The Conference created a dialogue on improving the accountability of the State in fulfilling its commitments towards reform in access to justice made in the National Strategic Action Plan for 2019 to 2023 and to improve access to public information, efficiency, and fairness in courts. The Conference also disseminated ERI Study supported by USAID and NDI on Access to Justice Commitments of Maldives National Strategic Action Plan. The study surveyed the implementation of national laws and policies on the justice
ystem from the perceptions of stakeholders in the justice sector, as well as legal aid providers and court-users.