The law is an incredibly powerful tool in the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and others forcibly displaced, and it is key in the search for solutions to their displacement. Yet, too often, refugee and other forcibly displaced communities – and those that serve them – lack the ability to access legal services to address their legal needs.
Recognizing this, at the inaugural Global Refugee Forum (GRF), 28 law firms, bar associations and corporations pledged to support efforts to protect and find solutions for refugees and others forcibly displaced in solidarity with each other and other stakeholders as part of a multi-stakeholder and partnership approach. Among other pledges, the commitment of law firms to provide 127,000 pro bono hours was highlighted in the opening plenary of the GRF and has been lauded globally. 55 legal and community empowerment organizations also pledged to collaborate in the initiative. It is estimated that the current commitments could provide legal aid to over 43,000 refugees around the world.
At the heart of the pledge, is a commitment to initiate and engage in ongoing dialogue among the global legal community, including lawyers, law firms, in-house counsel, law societies, bar association, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders, in order to better leverage material and increase resources.
A group consisting of civil society organizations and individuals initially collaborated to mobilize colleagues and partners among the global legal community to join the pledge. Following the GRF, these members continue to meet to ensure that the pledge is put into action in a way that best serves the interests of the displaced communities needing legal support.
Work is ongoing to: input into the design, piloting and roll-out of a new platform to operationalize this pledge; map existing capacities and needs; and implement pilot projects, among other work. In order to facilitate the ongoing dialogue envisaged by the pledge and to strengthen collaboration between civil society organizations and the private legal sector, this work is being complemented by a series of linked activities, including a Roundtable and two workshops.