STRATEGIC PLAN

South Sudan Law Society (SSLS), Five-Year Strategic Plan 2014-19

SSLS BACKGROUND

The South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) is a civil society organization based in Juba. Its mission is to strive for justice in society and respect for human rights and the rule of law in South Sudan. The SSLS manages projects in a number of areas, including legal aid and paralegal training, human rights awareness-raising and capacity-building for legal professionals, traditional authorities, and government institutions.

INTRODUCTION 

This strategic plan presents the strategies, objectives and activities that the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) intends to conduct over the next five years (2014-19). It is structured in three main sections. Section One provides an overview of the SSLS’s institutional structure, including a planned restructuring of the SSLS Secretariat. Section Two discusses eight strategic issues and associated activities. Section Three provides guidance for SSLS members, directors and staff in implementing this strategic plan. After the Concluding Remarks, Annexes I and II present the implementation matrix and departmental work plans.block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

The SSLS is a voluntary association of lawyers from across South Sudan and the diaspora. Its membership includes judges, magistrates, legal academics, law students, and lawyers working for the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and in private practice.The SSLS currently has 51 permanent staff and over 80 members. The organization also works with more than 260 community paralegals in locations across South Sudan who have been recruited and trained by SSLS staff. The mandate, vision, mission and core values of the SSLS are as follows:

MANDATE
To protect the rights of the people of South Sudan and promote the interests of its members through legal interventions and legal empowerment in accordance with human rights and humanitarian law.

 

STRATEGIC ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES

In developing this strategic plan, the SSLS adopted participatory approach that encompassed input from all of the organization’s key stakeholders. The SSLS Secretariat began by conducting an extensive review and analysis of the SSLS’s internal and external environment during strategic planning meetings held in Juba in November and December 2012. A draft strategic plan was then developed taking into consideration the various observations that were made during the stakeholder consultations.In 2013, a final meeting was held in Nairobi with members of Secretariat and Governing Council to revise and finetune the draft. A consultant was engaged to facilitate the process. The final strategic plan was then formally adopted by the General Assembly in XXXX and launched in XXXX.

The strategy that has been developed seeks to create synergies between the work of the SSLS and services provided by government institutions, as well as between the SSLS and non-governmental actors.Over the next five years, the SSLS will implement this strategy in collaboration with its stakeholders while continuing to search for opportunities to coordinate activities with other strategic partners in South Sudan and internationally.

Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance

Strengthening the Plural Legal System

Supporting the Customary System

Improving Access in the Formal System

Developing the Constitutional and Legislative Framework

Building a Better understanding of Law in South Sudan

Representing the Legal Profession

Developing the SSLS’s Organizational Capacity

Each strategic issue and associated objectives are discussed below.

Issue

Justice sector institutions struggle with human and financial resource constraints and high levels of corruption. Public sector actors violate human rights with impunity.

Objective

Building respect for human rights and good governance in order to strengthen public institutions and limit the potential for abuse, corruption and other malpractices.

 

Nine years since the signing of the CPA and almost three years since independence, South Sudan is facing a number of serious human rights concerns. Weaknesses in rule of law institutions result in arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as in a general lackof accountability. Individuals have been sentenced to death and executed without receiving a fair trial or benefiting from legal assistance. Journalists and human rights defenders are subject to threats and harrassment, violating their right to freedom of expression. Security forces have engaged in unlawfull killings of civilians, used force against peaceful protestors and failed to protect civilians particularly in the context of inter-communal violence. The government is largely unable to ensure women’s rights to non-discrimination and to protection from sexual violence and harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriage. Building a state that respects, protects and fulfills the human rights of its people is among the most important tasks of the postwar period.

 

The inefficiency and non-transparency of government institutions is a contributing factor to these human rights violations. One major concern is the failure of government institutions to adequately account for use of public resources. Corruption is rampant both at the national and state level, in government offices, in the Judiciary, as well as within the security sector.Over the next five years, the SSLS will make the mainstreaming of good governance and public accountability a key part of its programmes.

 

Often, the failure of government actors to respect human rights can be attributed to ignorance of the international human rights standards and provisions in South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution and laws. Individual citizens are also often ignorant of legal protections, leaving them unable to demand the rights they are accorded under domestic and international legal instruments. Indeed, many South Sudanese are illiterate and therefore unable to read, understand and claim their rights. Laws are also only written in English and printed copies are not not readily available and accessible.

 

The SSLS will promote improvements in human rights and good governence through monitoring, documentation, reporting and advocacy on human rights violations and weaknesses in the rule of law. Human rights education is also an important element of SSLS’s planned interventions. The SSLS willdevelop simplified explanations ofexisting laws to make them accessible to a broader audience. Where possible, the laws will be translated into local languages. The SSLS will also carry out public legal awareness programmes with a particular focus on rule of law actors, such as police and customary court judges.

Issue

South Sudan aspires to build a legal framework that draws on indigenous cultural values, but a lack of coherence between the customary and statutory legal systems gives rise to justice gaps.

Objective

Harmonize customary and statutory laws in a manner that is responsive to people’s rights under national and international law.

 

With the signing of the CPA in 2005, the new government in southern Sudan sought to part ways with a national system that envisioned the country as an exclusively Arab and Islamic state. A fundamental premise of the Government of Southern Sudan, and its successor, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, was that the new nation would draw strength from its cultural and religious diversity. Both the Interim Constitution and the Transitional Constitution recognized customary law as a source of law and established a plural legal system that incorporates parallel systems of statutory and customary courts.

 

There is, however, a gap between the positive rhetoric of building a nation on indigenous cultural values and the practical strategies for making this approach effective. Of particular concern is the lack of coordination between the statutory and customary legal systems. What little interaction there is between the customary and statutory courts occurs in an ad hoc manner and without systematic rules to structure the relationship. The poor coordination between the two systems gives rise to confusion with regards to jurisdictional limits of customary courts and the process for appeals between the customary and statutory systems. Customary practices are sometimes inconsistent with rights protections under constitutional and statutory law. In addition, the responsibility of the formalJudiciary for monitoring and overseeing the work of customary courts is not clear.

 

Through its access to justice programming, the SSLS will seek to promote a harmonious and mutually reinforcing relationship between the customary and statutory systems. SSLS attorneys will defend clients whose rights are being violated in customary and statutory courts and the legal aid department will identify strategic cases to promote the progressive development of South Sudanese jurisprudence on the topic. The SSLS will work with community paralegals and legal service providers to develop practical strategies for how the customary and statutory system can work together to increase the justice options for disputing parties. Through its research programming, the SSLS will document justice gaps and make practical recommendations for bringing greater clarity to South Sudan’s plural legal system for the benefit of both legal practitioners and litigants.

Issue

The absence of formal justice institutions in rural areas often leaves people with no option but to pursue their claims in the customary system. While the customary system provides certain advantages in terms of accessibility and familiarity, it suffers from a lack of oversight and poor enforcement capacity.

Objective

Build capacity for actors in the informal justice system through trainings on legal basics and human rights protections under national and international law.

 

Most legal disputes in South Sudan are handled by customary courts. Customary courts are more accessible than statutory courts in several respects. They are present in all rural areas and are typically more affordable than statutory courts. Customary courts are more culturally accessible, as they base their decisions primarily on local norms. Proceedings can also be conducted in South Sudanese languages, whereas statutory court hearings are often conducted in Arabic or English.

 

Despite their accessibility, however, customary courts faces significant challenges, including capacity constraints for the judges who preside over them. Customary court judges have an intimate understanding of the types of disputes that arise at the local level and disputing parties’ preferences for dispute resolution, but they lack formal legal training and do not have the necessary skills to interpret and apply written laws.

 

Equally concerning are harmful practices under the customary law that are sanctioned and enforced by customary courts. The manner in which local justice systems settle marital disputes and sexual crimes, for example, often serves to reinforce patriarchal power structures at the expense of women’s and girls’ rights. Permissive attitudes towards domestic violence, unlawful detention, forced and early marriage and discriminatory property laws are commonplace throughout much of the country. Despite protections against many of these practices in the Transitional Constitution and various pieces of legislation, the practices are nevertheless upheld in customary and statutory courts.

 

The SSLS will address these challenges by partnering with other like-minded institutions to reinforce the informal justice system through capacity building and training. The SSLS will work to reduce the violations of human rights by customary courts through documenting and reporting on such violations, advocating for increased oversight of customary courts, and providing legal assistance to for appeals against customary court decisions that violate the bill of rights. Community paralegals will also serve as intermediaries through which the SSLS can engage and promote the progressive reform of customary law.

Issue

The limited number of courts and justice institutions leads to case backlog, delays in delivery of judgments, and overcrowding in prisons and penal institutions.

Objective

Improving people’s access to the formal justice system through the provision of legal aid, pro bono legal services and training of paralegals.

 

Since colonial times, the state’s presence in rural parts of South Sudan has been severely limited. Prosecutorial, police and prisons services are often only available in urban areas and in a few county headquarters. Though the 2008 Judiciary Act envisages statutory courts in all counties and payams, only a fraction of county courts have been established and there is not yet a single payam-level statutory court in South Sudan. As a result, it is difficult and sometimes impossible for individuals to access the statutory system. The limited reach of the formal system and its lack of sufficient personnel also results in numerous delays with respect to pretrial detention. Many people are in jail when they should not be and this has created unncessary crowding in the few penal institutions that exist.

 

In addition to being phyically inaccessible to many South Sudnaese, the formal system is also difficult to access due to illiteracy, a lack of understanding of procedures or an inability to pay the court fees of potential litigants. The SSLS will seek to close this gap through the provision of free legal aid services, through the training of community paralegals and establishemnt of paralegal networks, and through sensitization on statutory legislation and the availability of formal courts. In order to increase the accessibility of the justice system for individuals in detention, the SSLS will conduct trainings for police and prison services as well as for detainees on the limitations of pre-trial detention, fair trial rights, and the rights to appeal.

 

Since it will take many years to establish formal justice institutions in rural parts of the country, justice service providers must find ways of linking the existing systems to populations residing in rural areas. Ultimately, the government will need to increase the accessibility of the formal system for South Sudanese through the expansion of services, increasing the number of staff in the formal system and ensuring people’s access to legal aid. The SSLS will support these efforts by pursuing strategic partnerships with government institutions, such as the RSS Ministry of Justice, to help broaden the reach of its legal aid services. Priority issues for the SSLS legal aid program include: homicide litigation, unlawful or arbitrary detention, gender-based violence and land rights. Specific strategies for addressing these issues will be detailed in a separate legal aid strategy document.

                                                                                                

  • Establishment of CPOs

Issue

South Sudan remains without a permanent constitution and the legislative framework is incomplete and ambiguous.

Objective

Conduct civic engagement activities, advocate for legislative reforms, assist in preparations for the 2015 elections and beyond, and contribute to the development and adoption of a new constitution that addresses the needs of the people.

 

At South Sudan’s independence in July 2011, the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly hurriedly passed the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. The haste with which the Transitional Constitution was passed was justified by the rationale that as a new state, South Sudan needed a new constitution. However, the document was drafted by a small number of government insiders and did not sufficiently take into account the views and aspirations of the South Sudanese people.

 

Since independence, South Sudan has embarked upon the creation of a new ‘permanent’ constitution to structure the relationship between the government and the South Sudanese people in the years to come. The SSLS has been engaging with various actors in recent years to ensure that a comprehensive constitutional review is conducted as part of the constitutional development process. Together with a coalition of civil society organizations, the SSLS is working to ensure that the South Sudanese people understand their role in the constitution-making process and that the government is receptive to their views.

 

In conjunction with the constitutional development process, South Sudan must also undertake extensive legislative reforms to fill the gaps in the legislative framework and bring the existing laws into conformity with one another. The SSLS will work with various stakeholders to progressively develop new laws for the nation. Activities will include comparative analysis of legislative practice in other countries facing similar challenges as those of South Sudan. The SSLS will also conduct workshops to solicit input from citizens on priority issues and to promote legal reforms.

Issue

Existing data on the justice sector is inadequate and there is a poor understanding of legal issues among both users and suppliers of justice services.

Objective

Conduct research to better understand key legal issues and use the data generated to produce informational materials that are practical and user-friendly.

 

The lengthy civil war in southern Sudan severely constrained efforts to document and analyze legal practices in the region. The lack of reporting systems has resulted in a poor understanding of how justice sector institutions function. Public sector institutions rarely make data available and there is little consensus on the indicators that should be used to monitor developments across sectors. As a result, government institutions and their development partners often find themselves working at cross-purposes, simply because they do fully understand the context in which they are operating.

 

The SSLS’s research department seeks to bridge some of these information gaps through its research and documentation efforts. Past research efforts have targeted such issues as the surge in land acquisitions by private investors in the postwar period and an empirical assessment of local justice systems in conflict-affected regions. Once gathered and analyzed, this data is used to inform strategies to generate informed and targeted policy options. Research activities will also be designed in a manner that is complementary with other programming activities in Human Rights and Good Governance and Legal Aid and Access to Justice, such that the activities of the SSLS program departments are mutually reinforcing.

 

The SSLS will also publish a regular newsletter to bring items of interest to the attention of its members and the broader public. The newsletter and other publications will be disseminated throughout South Sudan and posted on the SSLS website for easy access. The research department will also prepare and publish Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials such as brochures, training materials, banners and posters for use in SSLS programming activities. In addition, the research department will publish simplified versions of written laws with accompanying explanatory text for use in legal education programs.

Issue

The legal profession is poorly organized and unable to promote its interests in a concerted and effective manner.

Objective

To cultivate a sense of commitment in the SSLS membership through various services and benefits.

 

During the war,SSLS members had limited opportunities to participate in the activities of the organization, as most of them were fully engaged in the liberation struggle. When the Government of Southern Sudan was established in 2005, SSLS members joined the new government as high-level government officials and civil servants. Others opened private legal practices in Juba or went on to work for various intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. Over the last nine years, the SSLS has worked hard to develop the capacity of staff in the Secretariat and expand its membership base. The organization currently has 51 staff and more than 80 members.

 

Although many of the SSLS founders have been preoccupied with the government duties and have not played an active role in the organization’s development in recent years, the SSLS nonetheless views its founding members as a resource that can be leveraged toadvocate for reforms across various sectors. The SSLS will also continue to work to increase its membership base through recruitment of new lawyers who are graduating from the universities and are coming back home to contribute nation-building efforts. Additional partnershipscould arise with faculties of law in South Sudnaese universities, research institutions and think tanks, and regional and international institutions representing lawyers.

 

To keep its members engaged and motivated, the SSLS will introduce membership activities such as regular member meetings, capacity building activities, and visits to bar associations and law societies in other countries. The SSLS will also seek out opportunities for the professional development of its members through scholarship programs and continuing legal education (CLE) programs. SSLS members can in turn contribute to the activities of the SSLS by providing pro bono legal services for clients who would otherwise not be able to afford legal services and for strategic litigation of cases in the public interest.

 

  • In addition to the restructuring of the organization discussed above, the SSLS will also seek to harness the skills of its members to meet the organization’s strategic objectives. Through the establishment of a pro-bono scheme, SSLS members in private practice will contribute towards the realization of the organization’s mandate. The SSLS legal aid department will refer cases to private lawyers and thereby correct some of the imbalances that persist in the legal system due to a shortage of defense attorneys. In time, these pro bono services could help to reduce case backlog and avoid unnecessary delays. In addition, the SSLS will organize conduct trainings with select members to equip them to serve as resource persons and consultants in its various programs.

Issue

The SSLS’s ability to deliver services to its members and clients is limited by human and financial resource constraints.

Objective

Develop organizational capacity to mobilize resources, promote staff training and retention, and harness information communication technology (ICT) to ensure regular and accurate reporting on activities.

 

The SSLS has identified several priorities in terms of its organizational development. The first concerns the need to identify and attract experienced staff to the organization. A number of SSLS staff have worked with the organization for many years and in so doing have developed a solid foundation in South Sudanese law and various training techniques. However, the pace at which the organization is growing necessititates the recruitment of additional and more specialized staff.

 

A second priority for the SSLS will be investing into its physical infrastructure. The SSLS does not currently have an office of its own. It operates from rental institutions and relies on donor funding in order to pay its rent. In order to achieve a more sustainable mode of operation, the SSLS will seek to acquire land to construct offices in strategic locations throughout the country, starting with the head office in Juba. The SSLS will also invest in a guest house to accommodate staff traveling to Juba from the field and consultants visiting South Sudan for work assignments. This will allow the organization to avoid some of the high costs associated with accommodation in Juba.

 

Lastly, the SSLS will invest in various forms of information communication technology (ICT) to improve linkages with its field offices and with its stakeholders more broadly. The legal aid department will develop an online case monitoring system through one of the open source softwares currently available for human rights monitoring, which will enable it to monitor cases throughout the country as they develop in real time.The SSLS will also continue to develop its website, whichwill improve communications with the organizations members and other stakeholders. SSLS will also roll out a local area network (LAN) and a wide area network (WAN) infrastructure for more effective communication among its members and staff. To improve internal ICT management within the SSLS,the organization will seek to also build the capacity of staff in the Secretariat through ICT training and other capacity building activities.

 

These organizational changes will require a significant amount of resource mobilization. The SSLS will conduct fundraising activities with its donors to seek support for these efforts. The organization will also apply for land allocationsfrom municipal, county and state authorities in order to construct its offices and operational bases. The SSLS will also seek to increase its resource base through membership fees from new and existing members. These efforts could be supplemented by other types of fundraising activities, such as regular monthly lunches for the legal fraternity and charity events.

 

  • The oversight authority of the Governing Council is central to efforts to entrench good governance in the operations of the SSLS. To encourage their active participation in the affairs of the organization, the Governing Council will conduct regular meetings to monitor progress in implementing the strategic plan. The SSLS will also hold regular elections of council members to ensure that the governing body is truly representative of SSLS members.

As discussed above, this strategic plan identifies five departments that carry primary responsibility for meeting the objectives of this strategic plan: Legal Aid and Access to Justice; Human Rights and Governance; Research and Documentation; Membership Services; Finance and Administration. These departments will coordinate closely with one another and with the Governing Council and the General Assembly. The departments will be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are working towards the SSLS’s strategic objectives.

 

Annex I provides an implementation matrix outlining the SSLS’s approach for achieving its strategic objective over the next five years. It identifies anticipated challenges in implementing the various activities as well as performance indicators that will be used to measure progress towards the strategic objectives. These indicators will guide the SSLS in its internal review when it assesses its achievements over the course of the implementation period. Annex II provides a work plan for each of the five strategic units for 2014.

 

Monitoring and evaluation activities will be carried out continuously throughout the implementation period. The SSLS will also adopt a results-based management (RBM) system, in which planned activities are measured against the expected outcomes at six-month intervals. This will help the organization to measure the impact of its activities and evaluate their effectiveness. The RBM system will provide a mechanism by which members; directors, staff and other stakeholders can scrutinize the SSLS’s work and decide whether there is need to make changes or adjustments to planned activities and objectives. The SSLS can also use the RBM system to design new activities suited to the prevailing environment. Any such changes would be determined after carrying out an assessment of Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental (PESTLE) factors to determine the most suitable approach.

The SSLS has experienced remarkable growth in recent years. In order to consolidate these gains and set the organization on a path towards sustainable growth, the SSLS must continuously adapt to new and changing circumstances. The social, political and economic developments that South Sudan has experienced in the postwar period are giving rise to fundamental changes in society. The legal profession has a vital role to play in in guiding these post-conflict reconstruction efforts towards more just and equitable outcomes. The SSLS hopes to support these efforts through the various programs outlined in this strategic plan.

 

The SSLS will have to overcome numerous obstacles if it is to implement this five-year strategic plan. The repositioning of the organization around its strategic efforts will not happen automatically. Challenges will arise relating to finance, staff retention, and training, or others stemming from the political and social climate of postwar South Sudan. The SSLS must anticipate these challenges and have strategies in place to counteract them. This strategic plan provides a starting point from which the SSLS may begin working towards the fulfillment of its vision of access to justice for all.