Pro bono and human rights protection
Pro bono publico (for the public good) refers to the provision of professional assistance to charities, civic and other non-commercial organizations, as well as private individuals who cannot afford to pay for such help.
In Ukraine there are a large number of legal firms, yet only a few carry out pro bono projects and even less conduct such activities in the sphere of human rights protection. Unlike many European countries, there are only isolated examples of pro bono human rights-related work by legal departments of large companies in Ukraine.
Scant interest in this area is confirmed by the fact that in the last two years not one Ukrainian legal firm has taken part in the annual European Pro Bono Forum. This is a major international conference on pro bono legal practice organized annually by the Public Interest Law Institute (PILI). The Forum gathers lawyers, NGO staff and academics to analyze the development of pro bono work in different countries and ensure greater legal assistance to those who need it most
It is precisely in the human rights sphere that pro bono work by legal firms is so needed and can provide a valuable contribution to the development of society and affirmation of the rule of law and democracy.
Such work may involve direct legal defence of victims of human rights abuse or consultations. Other areas much needed are expert opinions and analyses of particular draft laws and other normative legal documents, or assessments regarding how Ukraine is observing specific rights.
The need for such pro bono activities is great given the number of infringements of human rights and the fact that very many people cannot afford to pay for legal assistance, as well as the number of flaws in legislation which place human rights in jeopardy.
The development of a sense of social responsibility in the private sector is vital and a key to the long-term success and effectiveness of the company and their fulfillment of their main mission – to help people.
Based on a text by Maxim Shcherbatyuk at www.helsinki.org.ua