Our current regional program in Europe and Eurasia is Europe and Eurasia Internet Advocacy Support Program. In September 2020, ABA ROLI started implementing this 24-month long program in Eastern Europe to build the capacity of local CSOs, expand networks, and support local initiatives in the region to combat laws that restrict Internet Freedom.
Europe and Eurasia Internet Advocacy Support Program (2016-2018)
In today’s technological era, the internet has become a key platform for sharing information , mobilizing civic space, and promoting human rights. Yet across the globe, governments are restricting internet freedom and freedom of expression online using a variety of methods, including national security regulations, vague language in internet laws, broad investigatory powers, excessive bail, harsh sentences, defamation and libel claims, content restriction and surveillance. In response, from 2016-2018, ABA ROLI partnered with local CSOs and experts in 18 countries (11 in Europe and Eurasia and seven in Asia) to build the capacity of lawyers and CSOs to foster freedom of expression, association, and flow of information on the internet.
During this period, with support from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), ABA ROLI led regional programs to advance legal frameworks to protect internet freedom across Asia and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. These efforts were aimed at:
Enhancing Legal Capacity: In Europe and Eurasia, ABA ROLI worked with local CSOs and experts to expand Internet Freedom networks and increased coordination in the region to combat laws that restrict freedom of expression. ABA ROLI worked to develop a training curriculum to enhance Internet Freedom advocacy capabilities in the region.
Strengthening Civil Society: In Europe and Eurasia, ABA ROLI supported building the capacity of local CSOs and Internet Freedom networks to counterrestrictiveInternet Freedom laws.
Training Curriculum: In Europe and Eurasia, ABA ROLI empowered civil society activists to effectively use advocacy tools to propose, advocate, and defend alternatives to restrictive Internet policies.
Providing Technical Legal Assistance for Local Reform Processes (1990s – 2000s)
Prior to merging all regional law initiatives under what is now known as ABA ROLI — ABA’s programming in Eastern Europe was conducted under its predecessor— the Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI). ABA CEELI provided technical legal assistance across the region from the early 1990s until the formation of ABA ROLI in 2007. In 1997, CEELI broadened and intensified its assistance to local partners by creating the Regional Institution-Building Advisor (RIBA) program to become programmatically, organizationally, and financially sustainable. RIBA also promoted partnerships with local, regional and international counterparts to ensure they could o fulfill their roles in the local reform process. Based in Croatia and supported by the local RIBA’s in North Macedonia and Serbia, RIBA supported partners in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro.
Balkan Law School Linkage Initiative (2000s)
In the early 2000s, ABA ROLI implemented the Balkan Law School Linkage Initiative, a legal education exchange program that supported rule of law and legal reform by pairing each participating Balkan school with a “sister law school” in the United States to share expertise and provide ongoing support to Balkan faculties. The program linked the Banja Luka and Sarajevo Faculties of Law with the South Texas and Baltimore Law Schools, respectively, and involved a series of student and professor exchanges aimed at improving clinical legal education programs, library science, and technology in the schools.
Building Sustainable Regional Partnerships in the Balkans (2013-2019)
The Balkans Regional Rule of Law Network (BRRLN) Program was a regional program implemented by ABA ROLI with the support from USAID and then DRL. From 2013-2019, ABA ROLI strengthened the rule of law in all five program countries and built sustainable regional partnerships and networks of professional associations and CSOs through virtual and in-person meetings to promote rule of law reforms. The underlying goal of this program was to strengthen defense advocacy by bringing lawyers and civil society together across the region and across sectors to share best practices, tools, and knowledge and to work on common issues that they identified as undermining the rule of law.