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February 20, 2024

Strengthening Judicial Practice in Rural Colombia: A Comprehensive Assessment of Local Needs Through the Lens of Judges and Court Personnel

In April 2023, a significant initiative embarked on a transformative journey with the launch of ABA ROLI’s Strengthening the Judicial Practice in Rural Areas of Colombia program. Funded by the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), this program aims to address the complex challenges faced by the Colombian judicial system in combating organized crime and ensuring access to justice, especially in rural regions. With a 36-month timeline, the program is being implemented in collaboration with the Colombian Superior Judicial Council with assistance from the Federal Judicial Center (FJC). 

Map highlighting the Program’s targeted regions in Colombia

Map highlighting the Program’s targeted regions in Colombia

The program's main objective is to implement targeted interventions designed to empower criminal judges in adjudicating transnational criminal cases. This holistic approach seeks to strengthen the knowledge, practical skills, and values of both judges and court personnel, ultimately enhancing the judiciary's capabilities to respond effectively to crimes in rural areas. The focus areas for the program’s implementation include Antioquia, Arauca, Chocó, Guajira, Nariño, and Norte de Santander, with the goal of improving the efficiency and efficacy of the judiciary in these specific regions. Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work in Colombia here.

To achieve these ambitious goals, ABA ROLI initiated a needs assessment phase, directly engaging with beneficiaries in the targeted regions. Collaborating closely with the FJC, the program designed a comprehensive methodology and guiding questions for working sessions with both judges and court personnel. The program sought active participation of judges and court personnel in rural areas, emphasizing the opportunity for the enhancement of skills within the criminal justice system, specifically focusing on cases linked to organized crime. Learn more about the program’s launch event.

Medellín, Antioquia. August 11th, 2023

Medellín, Antioquia. August 11th, 2023

Focus group for needs assessment in the department of Antioquia. ABA ROLI team with Mira Gur-Arie, Director of the International Office at the Federal Judicial Center, and local judges.

The journey of needs assessment kicked off in Medellín (Antioquia), where the ABA ROLI delegation, accompanied by Mira Gur-Arie, Director of the International Office at the FJC, conducted the first focus groups with judges and court personnel on August 9th and 10th, 2023. The working sessions concentrated on judicial training needs, as well as key thematic areas prioritized by the program, including environmental crimes, gender-based violence, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, cybercrime/financial crimes, and corruption.

Quibdó, Chocó. September 12th, 2023

Quibdó, Chocó. September 12th, 2023

Focus group for needs assessment in the department of Chocó. ABA ROLI team with local court personnel.

Building on the lessons learned from this pilot focus group, the subsequent working sessions unfolded in Quibdó (Chocó) on September 12th and 13th, 2023; Riohacha (La Guajira) on September 20th and 21st, 2023; Pasto (Nariño) on November 9th and 10th; and Cúcuta (Norte de Santander) on November 23rd and 24th, 2023. The final chapter of the initial needs assessment phase featured comprehensive focus groups for judges and court personnel from Arauca, held in Bogotá for security reasons, on November 30th and December 1st, 2023. 

Riohacha, La Guajira. September 20th, 2023

Riohacha, La Guajira. September 20th, 2023

Focus group for needs assessment in the department of La Guajira. ABA ROLI team with local judges.

Recognizing the diverse challenges across the country, ABA ROLI conducted complementary virtual focus groups in Antioquia on August 10th, Chocó on September 12th, and Tumaco (Nariño) on November 2nd. Thes virtual engagements ensured a full understanding of the multifaceted issues faced by the judiciary in remote rural areas. The careful design of the needs assessment methodology and detailed planning of the sessions proved central to enabling ABA ROLI to conduct needs assessments in these territories.

Pasto, Nariño. November 10th, 2023

Pasto, Nariño. November 10th, 2023

Focus group for needs assessment in the department of Nariño. ABA ROLI team with local judges.

The information gathered through in-person and virtual focus groups, coupled with in-depth surveys, serves as the cornerstone for assessing territorial needs in the priority regions. Leveraging ABA ROLI's expertise in Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL), the collected data was processed, systematized, and analyzed to identify the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values of judges and court personnel. Both quantitative and qualitative data will be utilized to understand the specific needs of the judiciary in the targeted territories.

Cúcuta, Norte de Santander. November 24th, 2023

Cúcuta, Norte de Santander. November 24th, 2023

Focus group for needs assessment in the department of Norte de Santander. ABA ROLI team with local judges.

As the needs assessment phase approaches conclusion, ABA ROLI is about to uncover findings critical to address the local needs identified in each of the prioritized territories. These insights will serve as the foundation for formulating targeted recommendations, readied to enhance the competencies of the judiciary in rural areas of the country. In harmony with ABA ROLI’s logic model for the program, the conclusions derived from this assessment will dynamically shape the framework of a tailored Judicial Practice program.

This program is envisioned to go beyond judicial training, actively fostering peer-to-peer exchanges between US and Colombian judges, with additional local exchanges involving prosecutors and public defenders. Further, it will promote the creation of practical tools to empower the judiciary in efficiently adjudicating cases. The investment into collaborative efforts in these regions hold the promise of a brighter future for justice and the rule of law in Colombia's rural landscape. This program marks a significant stride towards sustainable progress, underlining ABA ROLI's commitment to producing positive and lasting change in the legal landscape of these vital communities.

Bogotá, D.C. December 1st, 2023

Bogotá, D.C. December 1st, 2023

Focus group for needs assessment of the department of Arauca. ABA ROLI team with Arauca judges.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Latin America and the Caribbean.