(HIAS Costa Rica)
Last week HIAS Costa Rica led a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas.
In the declaration it is made clear that members of the legal profession “have a responsibility to provide pro bono legal services in the scope of human rights of the refugee populations.”
The declaration also notes the need to “carry out concrete actions to improve the representation of and effective legal advice to refugees, asylum seekers and those in need of international protection.”
When the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas was put into effect in 2008, more than 530 individuals and entities from 21 countries around the continent participated. Signatories of the declaration assume an average of 20 professional hours per lawyer per year to invest in pro bono work.
“This is a critical opportunity for law firms big and small to engage in refugee protection,” said Rachel Levitan, HIAS Associate Vice President of Program Planning and Management, who attended the ceremony. “HIAS Costa Rica is playing a key role in convening lawyers and advocates to increase protections for some of the region’s most vulnerable people.”
The declaration, launched by the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, (the pro bono branch of the NY Bar Association), also helped found the Pro Bono Network of the Americas. The group aims to strengthen the relationship between pro bono initiatives in the Americas and exchange experiences and good practices. Today, it brings together more than 18 organizations, representing 13 countries.
In partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), HIAS Costa Rica has provided assistance, advice, and legal representation services to refugees since early 2017. HIAS staff in Costa Rica offer guidance on the administrative procedures for the refugee status determination as well as for access to basic rights such as health, education, and work. HIAS Costa Rica is organizing a workshop in San Jose, Costa Rica, on pro bono legal work and human rights, with an emphasis on the rights of refugees.
The event was co-hosted by UNHCR, the Americas Network for Refugees Legal Aid (ANRLA), and the Costa Rican Bar Association.