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As a result of the Technical Meeting of the Justice Ministries (REMJA) on Legal Cooperation in Access to Justice, held in the Training Center of the Spanish Cooperation Agency (AECID) in Cartagena, Colombia, on December 10 and 11, 2014, within the Inter-American cooperation process known as the Meetings of Ministers of Justice or Other Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA), the authorities responsible for leading access to justice policies in the OAS member states adopted specific recommendations for strengthening hemispheric legal cooperation in that area.

The adopted recommendations are geared toward establishing a hemispheric forum for exchanges of information on legal developments and best practices in facilitating access to justice, which will also serve as a venue for fostering horizontal cooperation among the OAS member states to strengthen the legal and institutional frameworks that serve as the basis for implementing the policies and actions devised to address the topic.

The event was chaired by Colombia’s Vice Minister for the Promotion of Justice and was also attended by that country’s Minister of Justice and Law, who spoke about Colombia’s policies for access to justice and reforms in that area. The meeting was also attended by the Secretary for Legal Affairs of the OAS General Secretariat, who spoke of the importance of strengthening access to justice and the attention that has been paid to this question within the inter-American system.

The Director of the Department of Legal Cooperation of the Secretariat for Legal Affairs, the agency of the OAS General Secretariat that supported the event in its capacity as the Technical Secretariat of the REMJA process, spoke about the REMJA’s past experience with access to justice and its mandates in that area, and he presented the results of the analysis of the information provided by the countries of the Americas on their developments addressing the topic.

Also in attendance were representatives of other OAS departments and other international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, and academia who have worked on the topic of access to justice. Those speakers gave presentations on relevant developments in their areas, which served to underscore the benefits of combining efforts toward that common goal.

Information was provided about innovative programs and successful experiences with simplifying and streamlining access to justice, such as new technological tools that enable on-line communications and the on-line resolution of conflicts between parties, on-line legal services, videoconference hearings, electronic notifications, and electronic case files, the use of which was addressed in one of the meeting’s recommendations.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included institutions for bringing justice closer to the public, such as integrated centers for justice and legal assistance, mobile courts, local justice centers and multidoor courts, and the use of alternative conflict resolution methods, such as mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. The meeting recommended strengthening and promoting all those institutions and mechanisms.

The event also highlighted the need for legal education programs to inform the population about the guarantees they have for securing access to justice, and to educate justice practitioners in best practices for ensuring the public’s access to justice, and accordingly it invited the states of the Americas to develop such programs.

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