Honiara, Solomon Islands - Paralegals are an indispensable part of Solomon Islands Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO), deployed across five provinces. Their work supports the services of lawyers who supervise them, and facilitates the understanding, protection and vindication of legal rights through community awareness, advocacy and assistance.
As such through the Solomon Islands Access to Justice Project (A2J), 12 paralegals have just concluded a five-day refresher training to boost their role as conduits for communities intending to access justice services provided by Government. Their work environment, like other Solomon Islands Government workers based in remote parts of the country, is extensive and challenging to reach the furthest behind first.
The training provided a space of solidarity where ideas on the future of legal aid service delivery for improved access to justice were exchanged. In addition, there was skill building on various topics of substantive law and procedure, and communications techniques and resources to enhance their awareness.
The work of the Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO) paralegals in restorative justice has benefited more than 7,500 people, most of whom are based in remote locations in Solomon Islands.
The training was held a few days from International Social Justice Day (20 February). The principles of social justice are related to sustainable development, poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, universal social protection, gender equality and access to social well-being and justice for all. These are intertwined with the services of legal aid provided by the PSO.
“Social Justice is the equal access to wealth, opportunities and privileges in a society. Decentralization of state services and development priorities is required to achieve social justice in the provinces,” said PSO Paralegal, Natasha Sogabule, who is based in Auki, Malaita Province.
“Social Justice in Solomon Islands is impeded by geographical, developmental, and cultural barriers. Digital means of communication provides a means to circumvent these barriers. In the information age where distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges are becoming mainstreamed in the digital sphere, the “lack of digital means of communication” is becoming a major barrier to social justice, especially in the global context”, said PSO Paralegal, Nelson Kumamusa Kere, who is based in Gizo, Western Province.
Speaking on the refresher training, the Access to Justice (A2J) Project Manager, Ms. Grace Kiernan, was glad for the opportunity to work with the paralegals to learn more about the challenges and opportunities they have encountered since their deployment and work with them to advance skills that will improve people’s experiences in accessing justice.
“The lessons learned workshop provided a valuable opportunity for the paralegals to reflect on the crucial role they play in the justice system in supporting the PSO to enhance access to justice for Solomon Islanders across the country and in particular in rural and remote areas,” said Kiernan.
“The workshop also provided a learning platform for the paralegals to share their experiences in the field, their collaborations with other justice stakeholders and initiatives to overcome challenges to ensure the realization of justice for all including women, youth and people with disabilities.”
She added, “The paralegals will return to their duty stations with enhanced skills and knowledge to continue in their objective to enhance access to justice in Solomon Islands.”
The training centered around communications and lessons learned. The paralegals are currently based in the provinces of Guadalcanal and Honiara, Malaita, Western Province, Temotu and Makira.
The A2J project is a partnership between the Ministry of Justice and Social Services and the UNDP Office in Solomon Islands with support from the Australian Government.
For more information:
Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, Communications Specialist – Access to Justice Project, UNDP in Solomon Islands, E: firstname.lastname@example.org, P: (677) 27446, M (677) 7701 680.