The period under consideration in this annual report, running from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, was undeniably affected by the globally disruptive pandemic of COVID-19. Amidst the pandemic, the security context deteriorated and democracy declined in nearly all of our countries of intervention. But none of these setbacks stopped us in our work.
Given the wide geographical presence Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC) has developed over the years, with astonishing teams and partners directly on site, we were able to pursue our work in the countries where LWBC is established. Throughout the world, our partners rolled up their sleeves and demonstrated courage and resilience, adapted, and continued their efforts to support vulnerable groups in exercising their rights and ultimately improve their situation.
We listened, we demonstrated our capacity to adapt and be creative. In short, we underwent considerable change and worked incredibly hard. New work strategies were developed, some leveraging information technologies. Like many of you, we widely enforced a working-from-home model, and learned how to increase cohesion within our teams worldwide in spite of geographical distance. This enabled us to reduce our carbon footprint, with some activities no longer requiring on-site participation, as virtual collaboration became the new normal. To make a long story short, we braved the storm, keeping our own borders open while the world’s borders were closed.
We’ve grown a lot in the process, transforming challenges into opportunities. Without compromising our values and principles, we managed to strengthen our programs, our methodology, our policy and our organizational capabilities. What results did we yield? Despite the hostile conditions we faced this past year, once again we are glad to report exceptional results for the advancement of justice, human rights and development.
In Mali, the majorly LWBC-supported Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Committee (TJRC) contributed to peace by establishing the truth regarding conflicts and other episodes involving armed violence in Mali, and allowed victims—especially women—to participate actively in the transitional justice process. Despite the pandemic, despite terrorism and despite a coup d’état, the TJRC held public hearings, received more than 7,000 depositions and testimonies, and raised awareness among over 5,000 people. All of this contributed to stabilizing and increasing security in Mali, but also more widely in Africa, and globally.
In Colombia too, LWBC continued to support the peace and reconciliation process, in spite of unfavourable conditions resulting from a troubled political and health context. Thanks to a specific methodology developed with civil society organizations, LWBC enabled hundreds of women to become involved in transitional justice and to have an impact on its course.
Major milestones were reached regarding criminal punishment for human trafficking in Central America, as LWBC provided support in helping the specialized human trafficking courts in Guatemala get back on track, delivered training to prosecutors specialized in these cases, strengthened cooperation between institutions, and increased direct participation of victims in the exercise of their rights.
The outstanding victories which LWBC helped secure in collaboration with its partners before national and international courts deserve positive recognition. Such is the case in the area of sexual and reproductive rights, gender-based violence, and discrimination. The Vicky Hernández case, involving the murder of a transgender woman in 2009 in Honduras, was brought successfully before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and constitutes a step in the right direction for the LGBTI community on a global scale. In Cobán, Guatemala, the hearings relating to cases of sexual violence committed against girls in the school system shook the whole country and are bringing about important changes in policies and standards aimed at preventing further serious abuse. In Mali, legal proceedings were initiated to end to the practice of descent-based slavery (whereby a person is considered to be a slave based on their ancestors’ status as slaves) forced the State to take action, including by reforming the country’s Criminal Code. In Haiti, women who were raped during detention in a prison in Gonaïves were released.
Also in Haiti, the representatives of victims of the cholera epidemic, after 10 years of waiting, were finally given the opportunity to express themselves directly before the UN, thanks to LWBC’s efforts. As the epidemic was caused by UN forces in Haiti, this dialogue is an essential requirement for the reparation of the harms endured by the victims.
The fight against corruption intensified, including in Haiti and in Honduras, where corruption practices are being called out and disclosed by organizations backed by LWBC.
In all of its countries of intervention, LWBC helped bring about profound changes in the practice of law by providing training to a new generation of legal professionals committed to human rights, through the LWBC internship program and partner law firms.
On the financial front, we practised caution as early as March 2020, substantially cutting the budget we had drawn up before the pandemic. This strategy proved successful in such a way that we managed to end the financial year keeping to the revised budget, which represents a 14% decrease in comparison to the previous year. As such, LWBC is now in the best position to resume healthy growth, provisions for which have already been made in the 2021-2022 budget. The first few months of 2021 already pointed towards increased growth, as 12 new projects were signed for a total value of more than $45 million spanning several years.
The new strategic plan for 2021-24, which was adopted following a highly participatory process involving LWBC’s international team, plans to leverage this momentum to consolidate LWBC’s position as an indispensable actor in legal empowerment, in Canada and around the world. We will achieve this by continuing to leverage the law and legal mechanisms as instruments for change, to strengthen quality legal services and deliver tangible results to improve the lives of people in vulnerable situations.
Thank you to our partners, both in the field and within Canada, and to all those who support us and follow us in our mission!
Delia Cristea, President of the Board of Directors
Pascal Paradis – Executive Director
LWBC in Figures
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for more information
from international cooperation
on our team (Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Mali, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and Venezuela)
100 high-profile cases
of human rights violations brought
before international courts
in vulnerable situations
including human rights defenders, benefited directly from our activities or those conducted by our partners
by LWBC or LWBC partners, including through direct legal aid and judicial assistance
around the world (Bamako, Bogota, Guatemala City, Quebec City, Port-au-Prince, San Salvador, and Tegucigalpa),
and 4 regional offices (Medellin, Bucaramanga, and Pasto in Colombia, and Montreal in Canada)
(Benin, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mali, El Salvador)
and 23 volunteers deployed nationally and internationally, including 91 women and 41 men
FiguresFrom April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021
ASFC Around the World
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on the map to find out more.