Supporting Community Justice in the Dominican Republic
The United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the non-partisan civic movement Participación Ciudadana recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Community House of Justice program.
This successful initiative began as a pilot project for the promotion and use of Mediation and Conciliation methods. These are regarded as important tools to increase access to justice, particularly for vulnerable populations.
During the celebration, U.S. Ambassador James Brewster praised the hard work and commitment of Participación Ciudadana, the Attorney General's Office, the municipality and civil society. The success of the program, the Ambassador noted, allows access to justice in communities with high crime rates.
Community Justice Houses establish a space where the Judiciary, the Public Ministry, municipalities, and the business sector come together, through the coordination of civil society. The pilot initiative has successfully been replicated. There are now nine Community Justice Houses in the Dominican Republic, in Santiago, Moca, San Francisco, La Vega, Esperanza, Mao, and the National District.
The Community Justice House Program has benefited more than 250,000 people through conflict resolution in family, labor and community related issues. These include such difficult issues as alimony, child custody, visitation rights, estate matters, boundary disputes, leases, and debts. The Houses also help prevent violence in the communities, because citizens have free access to services such as conciliation, mediation, legal counseling, psychological care, coordination with social organizations and civic education, and care for gender-based and domestic violence victims.
Participación Ciudadana National Coordinator, Josefina Arvelo, said the program has been highly effective, and she advocated for more replication of the Community Justice House model to different parts of the country.
For over five decades, USAID has collaborated closely with the people and government of the Dominican Republic. They have worked together to increase sustainable development and strengthen the country's health care, economy, governance, justice, civil society and education. To date, USAID has invested more than $1.7 billion in the Dominican Republic. This is very much a partnership that works well for both the United States and the Dominican Republic, as well as for the region.