Albanian Judges Begin to Advocate for Judicial Independence

A group of officials deliver remarks at an event head table
USAID support to the Union of Judges has resulted in national conferences with national and international participation.
USAID JuST Project
“The tailored assistance from USAID to consolidate and enhance the organizational capacity of the Union - a member of the International Association of Judges [since] September 2011 - has been very beneficial in enhancing UAJ’s reach and impact.”

“Registered in February 2008; 44 founding members; no operating rules and procedures beyond the general statute; lacking even minimal organizational and infrastructural means; membership fees collected at an insignificant level; limited and ineffective communication with the public and the media; spontaneous and reactive activities.”  These were the key findings of an organizational needs assessment of the Union of Albanian Judges (UAJ) conducted by USAID’s justice sector project in March 2011.

Fast forward 16 months.  Following the election of a new board in July 2011, and with USAID support for strategic planning and implementation, the UAJ is turning things around.  Today, the organization has 121 members.  It has tripled its budget.  It has an office and dedicated staff.  It operates based upon an agreed-upon strategy and work plan.  It is actively advocating on issues important to the Albanian judiciary, such as judicial immunity, judicial inspection procedures and the Supreme Court law.  It has increased its visibility in the media and the public, and even has its own website: www.unionigjyqtareve.org.al.
 
UAJ has also been successful in initiating and designing projects funded by foreign donors.  The Open Society Foundation for Albania/Soros has funded two activities, including a national conference on judicial reform with notable international guests, such as the Vice President of the European Court of Human Rights, Josep Casadevall, and well-known British lawyer Cherie Blair, Queen’s Council.
 
“The tailored assistance from USAID to consolidate and enhance the organizational capacity of the Union - a member of the International Association of Judges [since] September 8, 2011 - has been very beneficial in enhancing UAJ’s reach and impact,” notes its Chairman, Ervin Metalla.  The Union is already planning for its first nationwide membership drive and outreach activities which will culminate on Albanian Justice Day, May 10, 2013.
 
Today, judges in Albania have an association that is increasingly capable of delivering upon the promises enshrined in its statute: 1) to strengthen the independence of the judiciary; 2) to increase judicial ethical and professional standards; and 3) to contribute to strengthening public trust in the courts, and the rule of law in Albania.
 

Last updated: December 05, 2014

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