The International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems will hold a special virtual convening on legal aid amidst COVID-19, from 14-18 September, to continue to achieve progress on equal access to justice for all as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda and to strengthen access to quality legal aid services for the poor and vulnerable.
The Public Defender's Office of the State of Rio de Janeiro will host virtually the conference together with the International Legal Foundation (ILF), the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and in collaboration with the Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the National College of General Public Defenders of Brazil (CONDEGE)), the Public Defender's Office of the Union, and the National Association of Public Defenders of Brazil (ANADEP).
This virtual event with short sessions spread over 5 days will be a specially adapted session of the fourth biennial global Conference and it aims to highlight global efforts to implement the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, which provide that States should put in place a comprehensive legal aid system that is accessible and effective, has a nationwide reach and is available to all without discrimination.
Despite the pandemic and also due to the new challenges it presents, this conference will be held following the inaugural Conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2014, the second Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in November 2016, and the third Conference held in Tbilisi, Georgia in November 2018. While we hope to gather in person at a future date, we believe it is important at this critical moment to exchange experiences and discuss the idea of a legal aid network, in order to achieve equal access to justice for all.
We invite all participants to join together online Monday September 14 as we open the conference with inspiring speakers from around the world who are meeting this moment as legal aid providers amidst COVID-19. We encourage participants to join at least one online panel per day from Tuesday through Thursday. These sessions will be interactive, held meeting-style, so that we can provide an opportunity for smaller group discussion and accommodate wide participation across multiple time zones. On Friday, September 18, we invite all participants to come together again in plenary as we report back and call for concrete actions that increase justice for all going forward.