How can universities and civil society work together to promote human rights and social justice? One important way for universities to contribute to improved human rights protection in society is through legal clinics and Clinical Legal Education (CLE). Legal clinics aim to increase access to justice for groups in situations of vulnerability, by empowering individuals and groups in situations of vulnerability to be able to claim their rights. In order to reach these aims, legal clinics can build strategic alliances with important social stakeholders, such as civil society organisations.
Learn more about legal clinics and CLE, as well as their connection to human rights and social justice.
Felisa Tibbitts describes the relationship between Human Rights and Clinical Legal Education
The project “Promoting Social Justice through the Cooperation Between Non Governmental Organisations and Legal Clinics in Belarus, Poland and Sweden” aimed to reinforce strategic cooperation between NGOs and legal clinics can serve to promote a greater enjoyment of rights for groups in situations of vulnerability.
“We did this by analysing different models of cooperation in Poland and Sweden, and by developing capacities on CLE methodologies and how a Human Rights Based Approach can be applied to CLE”, , says David Eile, Senior Programme Manager. “In addition, opportunities were created for peer-learning and exchanges of knowledge and good practices between legal clinics and NGOs in the participating countries”.
Senior Programme Officer David Eile introduces the project
Main activities implemented
Study Visit to Warsaw and Krakow, Poland 11-15 October 2022
On 11-15th of October 2022, a study visit to Poland was organised by the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation. Participants included the Disability and Human Rights Clinic of RWI/Lund University, students, NGO representatives, and CLE experts from Belarus and Sweden.
During the visit, the participants met with several legal clinics tied to universities throughout Warsaw and Krakow to discuss and share best practices. The visited universities were Krakow University, SWPS University, Lazarski University and Jagellonian University. The group also met with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights to discuss how strategic litigation can be incorporated into CLE and the promotion of social justice. In addition, workshops on CLE teaching methodologies and soft skills were organised at the office of the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation.
Dr Filip Czernicki, President of the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation, was the organiser of the study visit to Poland. Filip Czernicki works on promoting and establishing of legal clinics in Poland and Eastern Europe, as well as promotion of professional lawyers’ pro bono activity. Since 2002 he has been the President of the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation, member of the Steering Committee of the Global Alliance for Justice Education (since 2009 President) and Head of the Supervision Council of the Polish National Union of NGOs.
Måns Olsson, Student, Lund Disability Human Rights Clinic
The main connection between HR and CLE, that I see, is that people without access to legal aid get this through the Human Rights Clinics.
My image of Human Rights was rather slim before and mostly restricted to the most well know human rights or civil rights. Now, with the clinics, I have worked with the rights of blind people which is an area that might not be at the centre of the ECHR. We have therefore had to stretch the limits of the ECHR and use it together with other more specific conventions such as the CRPD.
See what students and professors think about Clinical Legal Education
Workshop in Lund, 27-28 October 2022
During the workshop in Lund, legal clinics and NGOs from the partner countries had the opportunity to work further on issues related to participation and pedagogy within CLE.
The workshop explored how legal clinics and NGOs can relate to frameworks, theories and approaches based on human rights, principles and notions of participation, and critical and transformative pedagogy, in order to enrich existing CLE practices. The workshop also provided spaces for interactive group work and sharing of knowledge, practices, and experiences between participants.
Key resource persons during the Lund workshop included:
Dr Anna Bruce is a researcher at RWI and Director of the Lund Disability Human Rights Clinic. She presented on General comment No. 7 (2018) on the participation of persons with disabilities in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Dr Teresa Cappiali is a researcher at RWI and has a project on alternative pedagogies and human rights to solve conflicts around diversity and promote the inclusion of marginalized groups in society. She presented about the potential of transformative pedagogy for further development of CLE.
Professor Felisa Tibbitts is an expert on issues relating to human rights and global democratic citizenship education, critical pedagogy, education and social movements and human rights and higher education transformation. During the Lund workshop, Tibbitts discussed and facilitated a group work together with Teresa Cappiali regarding how of transformative and critical pedagogy can be related to CLE. She also presented a checklist on how a Human Rights Based Approach can be applied to CLE, which has been developed as part of the project.
Siarhei Salei is an independent expert with expertise in Legal Clinics in Belarus. He was one of the persons that initiated the legal clinics movement in Belarus in the 1990s and has been involved in various project within academia and international cooperation, specialising in non-formal education in law, human rights and history. During the workshop in Lund, Siarhei facilitated a session on the concept of “The Ladder of Participation”, developed by Arnstein, and its relevance for participatory CLE practices.
Project Results: What We Achieved
Mapping models of cooperation between legal clinics and NGOs/CSOs
In line with the overall aim of the project to strengthen strategic cooperation between legal clinics and CSOs/NGOs and thus promote a greater enjoyment of rights within socially vulnerable groups, two mapping reports were written. This was to document and raise awareness of cooperation mechanisms between these actors with specific attention to equal participation in agenda setting and formulating objectives directly informed by the social needs of groups in situation of vulnerability. As a result, the reports assess the cooperation of three clinics in in each country, and thus how the cooperation contributes to the legal capability and outreach of the clinics.
Self-Assessment Checklist for the Human Rights-Based Approach in Clinical Legal Education
To help legal clinics to adopt a Human Rights Based Approach, a checklist was developed during the project. Its purpose is to act as a tool for assessment of legal clinics. Staff of the legal clinics can check whether their work is in line with the UN definitions and goals about human rights and thus discover any possible distortions in their work.
Get in touch
David Eile currently works as a Senior Programme Officer responsible for various projects under RWI’s Europe Office, focusing on different forms of academic cooperation in Europe and Cuba. Since joining RWI in 2006, David worked with various human rights programmes in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. David has an MA in Anthropology from Lund University and is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Uppsala.
Anna Bruce is a senior researcher who focuses on the human right to equality and in particular disability equality. After being part of the negotiations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) her work is dedicated to developing and spreading knowledge about and implementing the CRPD.
At RWI Anna contributes to the implementation of the CRPD through the courts by leading the Disability Human Rights Clinic in cooperation with the Law faculty at Lund university. She assists in the development of national disability law and policy by regularly contributing to government investigations on the implementation of the CRPD. Anna also works together with municipalities, private companies and Disabled Peoples Organizations to translates the CRPD into concrete action. Examples of this are the urban design project Fair Share with Tengbom Architecture, Ri.SE and Helsingborg Stad and the project Article 19 as a tool developing indicators for the right to a self-determined life in the community with Independent Living Institute.
Beyond Disability equality, Anna is the researcher at RWI responsible for reporting to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on the implementation of human rights in Sweden. Anna teaches mainly at Lund university, at the Law faculty in the LL.M in Law and the LL.M in Human Rights Law and at Human Rights Studies at the Faculty of history in their Ph.D program.
Annas current research interests include the development of the concept of equality and non-discrimination in international law; systemic state obligations under the CRPD and their application to Sweden; implementation of the CRPD through national courts; human rights obligations and implementation by municipal actors; and urban design as a tool to realize equality and human rights. She recently published a book chapter on the concept of equality in international law and is currently developing it into a monograph for Brill. She developed the state obligations under the CRPD in an expert report on Swedish disability law and policy regarding the right to personal assistance and is currently finalizing a book chapter on the role of the Swedish courts in implementing the CRPD. Ahead, she is planning research output based on her work with the implementation of the CRPD through municipal governance.