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IDB and OAS join efforts to increase access to justice in Latin America

Investment in new technologies to modernize information systems of law schools that offer free legal assistance

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the Organization of American States (OAS) implemented a pilot project to improve access to legal services provided by universities in Uruguay, El Salvador and Guatemala to vulnerable groups.

With financing from both institutions, this partnership supported the design and creation of an electronic management, monitoring and communication system for administrative and judicial cases at the Legal Aid Center of the Universidad de la Republica’s Law School in Uruguay. The system was also replicated in the Universidad de El Salvador and the Mariano Gálvez and Rafael Landívar universities in Guatemala.

This initiative is very important for Latin America because a growing number of legal aid centers at the region’s law schools have started to provide free legal assistance to vulnerable groups in the past decade. It is expected that this project will help showcase the impact that new technologies may have in increasing and transforming the access to legal services, especially by those citizens from marginal groups in society.

The “Management and Follow-up of Cases System” (SIGESSCA in Spanish) is an online service platform that will be operational as of the third quarter of 2011. It is estimated that in Uruguay, for example, the new system will help manage more than 5,000 cases per year.

Among the expected results of SIGESSCA are: increased access to legal aid center’s services and better follow-up of cases through a new website; on-line access to dissemination of citizens’ right services; support to vulnerable groups through service delivery in decentralized centers; legal notices to the center’s users via e-mail or SMS; and an automatic control of the expiration of judicial terms.

This partnership was done through the project “Effective Justice: The Impact of New Technologies in Judicial Sector Reform,” implemented by the IDB’s Institutional Capacity of the State Division. This project aims at improving and systematizing the knowledge and existing information regarding the impact that new technological tools can have in the modernization of justice services.

At the OAS, the partnership was implemented under the “Project of Promotion of Access to Justice and Legal Assistance to Vulnerable Groups,” implemented by the Department of Social Development and Employment. The project’s objective is to improve access to justice to most vulnerable groups, through the strengthening of university legal assistance.

USAID and Pact World donated the software that was used to design the SIGESSCA system implemented in the region.

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