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Balkans Regional Programs

Strengthening the rule of law in the Western Balkans

To support the criminal justice reform process in the Western Balkans, from 2013-16, ABA ROLI implemented a U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID)-funded Balkans Regional Rule of Law Network (BRRLN) to address common criminal defense needs and foster regional collaboration (for more information see Past Programs).

Building on the successes of the USAID-funded program and to further support the sustainability of BRRLN, in 2016 ABA ROLI launched the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL)-funded Balkans Regional Rule of Law Network Path to Sustainability program. In January 2017, ABA ROLI successfully registered BRRLN as an independent local entity and will continue to focus its activities on building the capacity and sustainability of BRRLN.

Notable accomplishments

Among the most notable accomplishments, ABA ROLI’s activities in the Western Balkans have included:

  • Establishing the first legal clinics in Bosnia
  • Assisting in war crimes documentation in Croatia, Serbia, and Kosovo
  • Setting up the first national ombudsman’s office in Albania
  • Providing legal assistance to refugees and indigent communities in Macedonia and assisting the Macedonian and Serbian Bar Associations to establish themselves as independent voices in their respective legal community
  • Building the capacity of an anti-corruption coordinating agency in Montenegro and
  • Helping to establish the Judges’ Association, Prosecutors’ Association, Magistrates’ Association, and the Macedonian and Serbian Young Lawyers’ Associations,

Past Programs

Building sustainable regional partnerships in the Balkans

The Balkans Regional Rule of Law Network (BRRLN) Program was a three-year regional program implemented by ABA ROLI with the support from USAID. From 2013-16, ABA ROLI 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. Working together on common challenges served to empower individuals and mediated political and ethnic differences that have historically divided the region. From the start of the implementation, the BRRLN program complemented ABA ROLI’s bilateral programs in the region.

Providing technical legal assistance for local reform processes

ABA ROLI’s predecessor, Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI) has provided technical legal assistance in the CEE region since the early 1990s. 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 and to enter into enduring, sustainable partnerships with local, regional and international counterparts and fulfill their roles in the local reform processes. Based in Croatia and supported by the local RIBA’s in Macedonia and Serbia, RIBA supported partners in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro.

Supporting legal education in the Balkans

In the early 2000s, the Balkan Law School Linkage Initiative was a legal education exchange program supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs designed to support the rule of law and development of market economy in the Balkans by supporting legal reforms. The program goals were supported by pairing each participating Balkan school with a “sister law school” in the U.S., to share expertise and provide ongoing support to Balkan faculties.