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Attending BRAC University's Regional Research Workshop on Access to Justice in Asia, in Bangkok from 18-19 October 2018.

posted Oct 8, 2018, 10:57 AM by San Ng   [ updated Oct 8, 2018, 11:05 AM ]
To continue to work on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Access to Justice, I am on my way to attend this workshop by BRAC University's Center for Peace and Justice, that is run by kindred spirits. Here is the thoughtful concept note the team prepared: 


This concept note provides the background to a two-day regional research workshop on Access to Justice in Asia. About 15 to 20 participants will attend the workshop in Bangkok (venue TBC), on 18-19 October 2018, to brainstorm about research proposals on two broad thematic areas: I) Mobilisation, Engagement and Voice; and II) Statelessness, Refugees and Displacements. The result of the meeting is to draft a concrete participatory research agenda to be pursued by interested parties, in the coming one to two years.   The workshop is a follow-up to the Bangkok Colloquium held in December 2017, and intends to further CPJ’s growing network of institutions in Asia, together with enhancing their research capacity.

Access to Justice in Asia

‘Access to justice’ is at the forefront of Sustainable Development Goals 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, where formal and informal entities are working as both complementary and substitutes to each other’s roles. However, this is often done despite weak (horizontal) coordination within the different state institutions as well as between state and non-state institutions. There are also glaring (vertical) disconnects between academia and activism, and between national-level advocates and grassroots initiatives to ensure access to justice. In recent years, among others, three notable academic initiatives have taken place to identify knowledge gaps that could serve to address these disconnects.

First, the Centre for Asian Legal Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS) organized a research workshop in 2012, on The role of civil liberties in civil society activism. The main goals were to map out the institutions and actors involved in providing, or researching on, access to justice, and to identify promising research areas in the medium and longer term. The event was co-funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Second, in December 2017, the Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) based in BRAC University, Dhaka, organized the ‘Asian Leadership Colloquium on Legal Empowerment and Access to Justice’, which was held in Bangkok with more than 40 participants. The co-sponsor was the Open Society Justice Initiative. Through regional cooperation among actors in the field of legal empowerment in Asia, the colloquium took stock of the legal empowerment activities throughout Asia. Finally, the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights Conference was held in New York University  on 26-27 April 2018 to help forge legal empowerment organizations and research towards greater regional cooperation in Asia.

During the December 2017 colloquium, a consensus emerged for CPJ to coordinate various research institutions and academics in Asia to develop a participatory research agenda and initiative.  Based on previous events and feedback from partners, the proposed regional research workshop seeks to develop collaborative research on two umbrella themes: I) Mobilisation, Engagement and Voice; and II) Statelessness, Refugees and Displacements.

Regional Research Workshop in Bangkok (18-19 October 2018)

This two-day regional research workshop will bring together about 15 to 20 participants to forge a research initiative that can facilitate the partners’ contribution to a regional body of knowledge on legal empowerment and access to justice.  It will also enable individual researchers to learn from one another in terms of skills and experiences. The timing of the workshop will enable sharing of the draft research agenda in the upcoming 7th Asia Pro Bono Conference in Hong Kong in late October 2018.

Aim and Objectives

The aim of this research workshop is to develop a shared learning agenda and initiative for the co-production of research that promotes dialogue between activists/practitioners and academics in the field of Access to Justice in Asia. The specific objectives and expectations from the workshop are as follows:

1.     Developing a shared learning agenda towards action research on Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment in Asia.

2.     Initiating the co-production of research, identifying research questions stemming from academics as well as practitioners and activists.

3.     Gathering activists, practitioners and academics to:


a.     Promote greater dialogue and understanding among actors with respect to their areas of interventions and challenges in the field.

b.     Encourage better understanding by academics of the work done by activists and practitioners, and identify potential research questions (including impact evaluations of interventions) and other opportunities for future collaborations.

c.      Create a ‘catalyst for cooperation’ among academics, activists and practitioners for evidence-based policy formulation and advocacy.

d.     Produce knowledge on public financing for greater access to justice.

Thematic Areas

Under the theme of Access to Justice in Asia, the workshop will identify knowledge gaps under two umbrella themes. Two sub-groups will be formed according to the participants’ interests and experiences, and will flesh out research ideas in a brainstorming format.

I) Mobilisation, Engagement and Voice: This theme refers to the changing role and impact of institutions vis a vis citizens at various levels.

II) Statelessness, Refugees and Displacements: As a burning issue in the region, this theme encompasses issues such as climate justice, fragility and forced migration.

Across these two themes, some possible cross-cutting issues include:

-        gender aspects in legal empowerment

-        role of paralegals in various sectors

-        natural resources and land conflict

-        environmental degradation

-        financing mechanisms

-        role of information technology

Expected Outcomes

Following the regional research workshop in Bangkok and the feedback from the 7th Pro Bono Conference in Hong Kong in late October 2018, the organizers, along with relevant partners, will develop research proposals to raise funds.  In the longer term, the research outcomes will be compiled into either an edited volume or a special issue in a reputable journal. In the shorter terms, other forms of synthesis of the research findings will also be written, such as policy briefs and Op-Eds.


The regional research workshop will include participants from universities, NGOs, and international organizations working in the field of Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment in Asia. The variety of participants will ensure a balance of academics, activists and practitioners, and will ensure thematic representation. Participants are encouraged to come prepared with some speaking points and suggestions for discussion during the brainstorming sessions.