Supporting Civil Society

The CEELI Institute conducts a wide range of workshops for lawyers and civil society representatives from Ukraine and other Eurasian countries, focusing on mechanisms for enhancing government accountability to civil society, strengthening the public’s capacity to demand transparent government, and supporting efforts of lawyers engaged in representing and defending NGOs and journalists.

The Institute’s efforts are designed to support civic-minded organizations in their efforts to access and obtain public information, to undertake public oversight activities, and to use such information to conduct advocacy campaigns, investigative efforts and legal actions aimed at increasing government accountability. The Institute puts particular emphasis on developing capacity to successfully request and obtain public records from government sources, and to use that information in creative public information campaigns designed to present public information in clear and accessible formats. The Institute also provides support for lawyers who are defending such NGO efforts, often against increasing public pressures.

Among last year’s activities:

  • In partnership with the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties (a grassroots organization which came to the forefront of Ukrainian civil society for their work during the Maidan uprisings of 2013-14) the Institute has trained a network of Ukrainian citizens engaged in monitoring the conduct of law enforcement agencies, courts, and local government throughout the country. The ongoing project, named “OZON” to signify its aim of promoting transparency, brings together regional leaders from across Ukraine to study best practices for projects promoting government accountability. This year’s efforts focused particularly on communication strategies, including the development of useful and tangible reports as part of an accountability campaign, and effective communication of their efforts with the public and media.
  • The Institute provided ongoing training and support for lawyers defending Ukrainian journalists and bloggers who, despite recent reforms in the country, continue to suffer from a variety of legal and governmental restrictions on their activities. The programs gathered participants from across Ukrainian regions to address challenges faced under current Ukrainian media legislation, with reference to comparative international standards. The support and protection provided by Ukrainian lawyers for journalists, bloggers, and media in Ukraine is critical to the larger anti-corruption efforts now underway in the country, and will ultimately contribute to the creation of more transparent and well-functioning public institutions in this critical phase for Ukraine.

 

Human Rights Lawyers’ Respite and Sabbatical Program

With generous support from a variety of donors, the CEELI Institute is continuing its program, begun last year, to provide respite and sabbatical opportunities in Prague, at Institute facilitites, for human rights lawyers and defenders working under stressful and challenging conditions in their home countries. Our program is designed to help mitigate the damaging effect of the severe stress and untenable workloads carried by many among the community of human rights lawyers. Often working in hostile and authoritarian environments, these lawyers work tirelessly to defend their clients – often at great risk to themselves and their families. Participants in the program have included lawyers working on difficult cases of human rights abuse, and those defending NGOs and civil society activists, who came for short-to-medium term stays of up to three months. The specifics of each sabbatical are tailored to the individual needs of the participating lawyers.