Through its human rights and conflict mitigation program in Macedonia, the ABA worked to support full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. Specifically, the ABA sought to contribute to the consolidation of peace and stability by increasing the level of understanding of minority rights and increasing access for minority communities to the legal system, both as clients and as legal professionals.
Minority Representation in Legal Profession
In October 2004, the ABA published its Report on Minority Participation in the Legal Profession in Macedonia. The results revealed a very low minority participation rate; approximately six percent compared to approximately 25 percent in the general population according to the new census. Drawing on the findings and recommendations in the report, the ABA organized a pilot internship program with Macedonian legal institutions to encourage minority law graduates to enter the legal profession. Twenty-five students participated in the two-month pilot. At the end of the pilot internship program, in April 2005, the ABA organized a roundtable that provided students and coordinators with an opportunity to share their comments and opinions about the pilot program as well as suggestions for improvement. Both students and coordinators agreed that the pilot program was useful and had been a positive experience.
Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
In April 2005, the ABA released its Targeted Analysis of the Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in the Republic of Macedonia. The ICCPR Implementation Index analyzes a legal system's compliance with the ICCPR, a fundamental human rights instrument. The analysis conducted in Macedonia focused on eight articles of the ICCPR that have particular relevance for minority rights issues. A roundtable on the report's findings was held in April.
Targeted Assistance to Roma
In 2005 and 2006, the ABA implemented a USAID-funded project to provide assistance targeted to Roma communities and Roma individuals who would like to "regularize" their citizenship and become naturalized citizens of the Republic of Macedonia. The amendments to the citizenship law passed in 2004 included a temporary provision under which long-term residents could apply for citizenship under relaxed requirements. This provision expired on March 2, 2006. Through the support of USAID, the ABA provided funding and legal assistance to more than 1,000 applicants before the temporary provision expired.
In order to reach as many potential applicants as possible and to recruit and train volunteers, law students, lawyers and attorneys to assist potential applicants, the ABA conducted a number of trainings and informational workshops throughout Macedonia. In cooperation with the Soros NGO Support Centers, funded by the Open Society Institute, the Swiss Embassy and the European Agency for Reconstruction, the ABA organized a series of trainings throughout the country. After each training, the Soros NGO Support centers offered volunteers interested in working with the project free use of office equipment and telephone lines to assist citizenship applicants. The ABA organized additional trainings in cooperation with the local self-government in communities without NGO support centers. The participants at these trainings represented more than 100 NGOs from around the country.
In addition, the ABA supported the creation of a network of NGOs and volunteer groups throughout Macedonia. The ABA worked directly with 25 NGOs and volunteers to conduct community outreach and information activities. The ABA staff and lawyers from its partner NGOs worked with each of these community groups to provide the necessary financial and legal support to the volunteers and potential applicants.
The ABA, through its partner NGOs, also provided assistance to applicants in obtaining necessary documents from neighboring countries. A system for obtaining documents from Serbia has been established between ABA's three NGO subgrant recipients and an agreement with the UNMIK office in Skopje was established to facilitate the acquisition of documents from Kosovo.