Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE)
9th Worldwide Conference
“Breaking Down Walls: The Transformative Power of Justice Education”
(“Derribando muros: el poder transformador de la educación en la justicia”)
Puebla and Tlaxcala, Mexico 5-12 December 2017
GAJE’s 9th worldwide conference was held in Mexico from the 5th through the 12th of December 2017 on the campuses of Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Puebla and Universidad Autónoma of Tlaxcala in Tlaxcala.
The conference consisted of two parts:
- a General Conference with plenaries and concurrent sessions on various themes and topics (5-9 December in Puebla) and
- a Training-of-Trainers (TOT) workshop on practical aspects for implementing justice education, including clinical teaching methods (11-12 December in Tlaxcala).
ABOUT THE ORGANIZER AND HOST
GAJE is an ALLIANCE of persons committed to achieving JUSTICE through EDUCATION. Clinical education of law students is a key component of justice education, but GAJE also works to advance other forms of socially relevant legal education, which includes education of practicing lawyers, judges, non-governmental organizations and the lay public. GAJE has held eight worldwide conferences leading up to this ninth conference in Mexico (1999 in India, 2001 in South Africa, 2004 in Poland, 2006 in Argentina, 2008 in the Philippines, 2011 in Spain, 2013 again in India, and 2015 in Turkey), some of which were organized in cooperation with the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education. GAJE has also sponsored or co-sponsored a number of regional conferences and workshops
This ninth worldwide conference was hosted by the Mexico Clinics Network: justice legal education (Red Clínicas México: educación legal para la justicia), an informal network of professors and legal clinic coordinators throughout Mexico.
ABOUT THE CONFERENCE
Justice Education has demonstrated its potential to provide social justice worldwide in many different ways, both directly and through its emphasis on socially relevant legal education. This transformative power of justice education was needed more than ever, in times of constant social battles that societies worldwide were facing. Consistent with GAJE’s mission, this conference was once again an important meeting point for critical reflection about the power and role of legal education to transform societies and to defend the values of justice. It inspired justice educators and provided new ways of educating communities and students.
The main goal of GAJE worldwide conferences is to provide law teachers, law students, legal practitioners, jurists and social activists from around the world the opportunity to acquire new ideas, models, and skills for the use of education to promote social justice. In a range of plenary, small-group, and workshop sessions, delegates explore Justice Education as a concept for presenting, discussing, and creating innovative ideas for promoting social justice through legal education, including new and existing university legal clinics. There are also organized site visits to local justice education projects and a social calendar.
The General Conference was structured to facilitate as much participation as possible by those attending. While there were a small number of plenary sessions, including a few keynote speeches, most of the conference consisted of small group sessions providing opportunities delegates to share ideas, experience, and teaching materials. The General Conference structure was intended to favor sessions using interactive methods.
The Training-of-Trainers workshop consisted primarily of small-group, “hands on” training sessions on clinical teaching methods and clinical program development aimed at improving the effectiveness and coherence of justice education worldwide.
GAJE worldwide conferences also offer the opportunity to highlight Justice Education in the host country and region. Clinical legal education in Mexico started only 13 years ago. By 2017 there were 23 functioning university clinics and at least three other clinical programs led by organizations that work with law students in public interest initiatives. As is the case worldwide, social need for legal aid in Mexico is centered on groups that face specific vulnerability given their condition or circumstance, including migrants, children, persons with disabilities, and victims of gender violence. General human rights issues such as corruption, victim protection, and access to justice must also be addressed. Because relatively few private law firms in Mexico offer support for litigation on a pro bono basis and a small number of local NGOs can only do what they can on legal reform and public policy change, Justice Education is relevant not only from an educational standpoint but from a social perspective as well. The conference took place at a time when the Justice Education movement in Mexico had the potential of breaking a number of walls, not only by setting innovative legal precedents and expanding access to justice, but also through modeling legal education innovations, proposing law and regulatory reform, and opening opportunities for trans-disciplinary, regional and international collaboration.
GENERAL CONFERENCE THEMATIC STREAMS
The General Conference sessions addressed the central topic of the conference—Breaking Down Walls: The Transformative Power of Justice Education—in eight streams with the following themes:
STREAM 1: How Social Justice Education Advances Human Rights and Social Change
Justice Education, including clinical legal education, includes a variety of programs and initiatives aimed at advancing human rights and social change. Sessions in this stream will address the challenge of providing access to justice and legal assistance to all people, with a focus on understanding the roles and obligations of the legal profession to support persons in vulnerable situations.
STREAM 2: Resources and Methodologies for Justice Education
Well-functioning Justice Education programs aim at achieving best academic practices and greater societal impact. Sessions in this stream will focus on the types of resources and methodologies justice educators need to achieve these ends.
STREAM 3: How Can A Law Clinic Be Sustainable?
Sustainability of clinical legal education programs is vital in ensuring continued best academic practices and promoting students’ pro bono mindedness and ethical development, as well as supporting community empowerment and providing legal services to the community. Sessions in this stream will examine a variety of factors and strategies necessary to assure the on-going success of clinical programs.
STREAM 4: Overcoming “Walls” And Barriers to Promotion of Human Rights, Social Justice, and Legal Education Reform
Justice educators often face barriers in their efforts to promote human rights, social justice, and legal education reform. Sessions in this stream will identify some of the major obstacles to achieving the fundamental goals of Justice Education and explore means to overcome challenges. They will also address the role that the regulation of legal education and its relation to the rules for legal professionals plays to this end.
STREAM 5: Regional, Transnational, and International Collaboration
Regional, transnational, and international collaborations have been key in assisting in the development, strengthening, and expansion of Justice Education around the world. Sessions in this stream will identify key alliances and critically analyze many of the ways and means these linkages and partnerships—particularly “south-south” and “north-south” collaborations—can have a transformative, measurable impact on the global clinical movement.
STREAM 6: Pro Bono and Legal Clinics
The global clinical legal education and pro bono movements are interlinked through mutually-cooperative initiatives and a commonality of goals. Sessions in this stream will explore how clinical programs can further assist by successfully developing future pro-bono-minded graduates equipped with the skills, knowledge, and strong sense of ethical obligation needed to achieve greater access to justice.
STREAM 7: New Initiatives and Innovations in Justice Education
Sessions in this stream will explore various innovations and new initiatives in clinical legal education (such as, for example, multidisciplinary clinical programs, public legal education, student-run justice education initiatives, etc.) that can help to ensure the vibrant strengthening and expansion of Justice Education globally.
STREAM 8: Public Interest Law Initiatives Meet Clinical Legal Education Programs
Public interest law initiatives worldwide often work together with clinical legal education programs. Sessions in this stream will explore how clinical programs can further initiate, support, and develop public interest law initiatives (such as legal reform initiatives, strategic litigation, etc.) that can play an important role in the transformation of our societies and the promotion of social justice.
FEES, FEE WAIVERS, AND GRANTS
Fees for the conference and the Training-of-Trainers (TOT) Workshop were set as follows:
$US 425 for the General Conference (with an early registration fee of $US 350);
$US 500 for both the General Conference and the TOT workshop (with an early registration fee of $425).
Persons who could not pay the full conference fee could request a fee waiver or a fee reduction by completing a special section of the registration form. GAJE also provided a limited number of grants for travel and accommodations.