Feasibility Assessment on the Establishment of Virtual Victim Friendly Courts in Zimbabwe
To conduct a study on the feasibility and potential requirements of low budget virtual Victim Friendly Courts being established in Zimbabwe
Location: Harare Based
Duration: 22 days
Start and End Dates: 1 July 2021 to 1 August 2021
Reporting to: International Specialist (Justice for Children)
Background and Rationale
SPOTLIGHT INITATIVE (SI)
In September 2017, the EU and the UN launched a joint partnership to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide. The Spotlight Initiative (SI) aims to mobilize commitment of political leaders and contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Initiative aims at ending all forms of violence against women and girls, targeting those that are most prevalent and contribute to gender inequality across the world. The Spotlight Initiative deploys targeted, large-scale investments in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific and the Caribbean, aimed at achieving significant improvements in the lives of women and girls. Zimbabwe is one of the eight countries in Africa to benefit from this transformative initiative.
SI VISION IN ZIMBABWE
The overall vision of the Spotlight Initiative in Zimbabwe is that women and girls realize their full potential in a violence-free, gender-responsive and inclusive Zimbabwe. The Spotlight Initiative is directly contributing to Zimbabwe’s achievement of three of the country’s prioritized Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Goal 5 on Gender Equality, Goal 3 on good health and well-being and Goal 16 on inclusive and peaceful societies. The programme contributes to the elimination of SGBV and HPs through the creation of a broad partnership with Civil Society, Government, Private Sector, Media, among others; and, build a social movement of women, men, girls and boys as champions and agents of change at the national, subnational and community levels. A specific focus is on reaching and including in the programme women and girls who are often isolated and most vulnerable to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and Harmful Practices (HPs) due to intersecting forms of discrimination. The programme also seeks to address the SRHR needs of all women and girls using a life-cycle approach.
The SI Zimbabwe Country Programme uses a multi-sectoral, multi-layered, interlinked community-centered approach to the implementation of the interventions on the following six Outcome Areas based on the socio-ecological model for addressing SGBV and HPs;
1. Legislative and Policy Frameworks
2. Strengthening Institutions
3. Prevention and Social Norms
4. Delivery of Quality, Essential Services
5. Data Availability and Capacities
6. Supporting the Women’s Movement
UNICEF works heavily under Outcome 2 of the Spotlight Initiative to strengthen the work of institutions. In light of COVID-19 and the serious implications the national lockdown has had on access to justice , it is necessary for UNICEF to explore the possibility of supporting an innovative solution to this new challenge. This is directly in line with the Judicial Service Commission's 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan, which places greater emphasis on modernising and strengthening the efficiency of the judicial service, as well as enhancing access to quality justice for all. In addition the Zimbabwean National Development Strategy 2021 to 2025 aims to promote good governance and modernize the economy through the use of ICT and digital technology.
SCOPE OF THE ISSUE
Faced with the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis, the operations of courts around the world have been negatively affected as countries have been unable to keep their judicial systems fully operational with lockdown measures and restrictions on gatherings. Currently, in Zimbabwe, courts are limiting the number of people being seen, and continue to face travel restrictions which make it difficult for people integral to legal proceedings such as witnesses and litigants to physically attend court hearings.
JSC, supported by UNICEF, recognizes that virtual courts are an innovation that has been used worldwide to facilitate access to justice during these unprecedented times. A virtual court system is a judicial forum that has no physical presence but still provides the same services that are available in courtrooms. Access to virtual courts is limited to online access, videoconferencing and tele-conferencing. The virtual court process is an initiative designed to deliver speed and efficiency improvements to the justice system. In the ‘traditional’ process, litigants are expected to appear in person at a court while in a virtual court system, they appear by means of a secure video link while remaining physically located in their homes, offices or police station for accused persons.
Virtual courts offer a unique solution to the current problem brought on by COVID-19 and would allow survivors to be seen in Court without sacrifice the safety of themselves or others. Not only will this new technology improve access to justice during lockdowns, it will also have long lasting effects after the pandemic ends. The police and the prosecution have all stated that one of the biggest deterrents for survivors of SGBV to access justice is transport in the form of high fees or long travel distances. With a virtual court system, more people could attend court without the hindrance of travel and simultaneously reduce re-traumatization of victims risking having to face their perpetrators in or around the court. All efforts to establish virtual VFCs must be led by the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’, which special attention paid to marginalized populations, including remote communities.
In its 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, the Judicial Service Commission acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has impeded access to courts by justice seekers, including women and children who are survivors of abuse and violence. The courts reacted to the lockdown measures by closing, reducing and adjusting operations which have a negative impact o on the provision of timely and fair hearings, contribute to increased backlogs, longer pre-trial detention periods and generally hinder the efficient disposal of judicial and administrative proceedings. Certain vulnerable groups, including women and children at risk of domestic violence are acutely affected. With challenges brought about due to Covid-19, there is heightened need to consider virtual courts. It is hoped that the virtual courts will deliver speed and efficient improvements to the justice system. In the ‘traditional’ process, litigants are expected to appear in person at a court while in a virtual court system, they appear by means of a secure video link while remaining physically located in their homes, offices or police station for accused persons.
In order to understand if and how to establish virtual courts in Zimbabwe for Victim Friendly Courts (VFCs), JSC, with support from UNICEF, will hire a consultant / consulting team to conduct a feasibility assessment. A study on the feasibility of low budget virtual courts being established in Zimbabwe in general was conducted by the JSC in 2020, but this did not include an assessment of Victim Friendly Courts. Due to the unique requirements of Victim Friendly courts, a separate assessment will need to be conducted for VFCs to enable a comprehensive appreciation of the requirements.
How such a system will work will be designed by a consultant / consulting team who is knowledgeable of the legal and economic context of Zimbabwe and is also competent in terms of the technical requirements. This assessment must take into consideration physical equipment required and the accompanying costs, the extent of the government network and possible solutions, and the necessary policies and partnerships required. The consultant / consulting team is encouraged to provide multiple options which clearly outline pros and cons for consideration.
Human rights principles must be engrained in the design of the system to ensure that the structure does not in itself violate the rights of users i.e. designation of open access room at the court for litigants without the means to access the virtual courts from their homes. Due consideration must also be given to data protection, data security and child safeguarding based on UNICEF’s policy and tools as well as the Digital Public Goods criteria. In addition, the assessment must address accessibility concerns related to virtual modalities (i.e. access to reliable internet and hardware) for the most vulnerable and include inclusive considerations in the report.
The User Research Consultant will be responsible for:
Producing research on the feasibility and potential requirements of low budget virtual Victim Friendly Courts being established in Zimbabwe including an assessment of relevant models from other countries
Providing a practical explanation of how virtual courts could feasibly be set up, including how the virtual court model at Rotten Row Magistrate’s Court could be adapted to VFC context
Producing a recommendation of the most reasonable mode of hearings in the Zimbabwean context, including how they can be designed, implemented, and maintained with financial costs
SCOPE OF WORK
The consultant / consulting team should use the current Victim Friendly Court at Rotten Row Magistrate’s Court as a pilot for the roll out of virtual courts. The consultant / consulting team must submit an inception report, a draft feasibility assessment for consultation with technical experts and a final feasibility assessment which includes implementation of the virtual court at Rotten Row Magistrate’s Court. The feasibility assessment must suggest exactly how the system would be set up practically including diagrams and suggest the most reasonable mode of hearings in the Zimbabwean context, including who can join virtually and how this will be carried out. The assessment must include requirements for the pilot court as well as requirements for future expansion across VFCs nationwide.
Duties and Responsibilities
1. Inception report • Overview of scope and methodology with attention given to the existing Rotten Row Virtual Court Proposal and its potential application to the Victim Friendly Court context
• Detailed list of key risks to be addressed
2. Draft feasibility assessment submitted
• Explanation of how the virtual court model at Rotten Row Magistrate’s Court could be adapted to VFC context
• Assessment of relevant models from other countries, as well as options (pros/cons)
• Practical explanation of how virtual courts could feasibly be set up, including diagrams
• Suggestion of the most reasonable mode of hearings in the Zimbabwean context
• Practical consideration to how virtual courts can be designed, implemented, and maintained including a detailed section on financial costs (in the short term and long term)
• Requirements for pilot court as well as requirements for future expansion across VFCs nationwide
• Explanation of possible application after the COVID-19 pandemic
3. JSC Consultation workshop on draft assessment (supported by UNICEF) • Draft assessment presented to key stakeholders for input
4. Submission and presentation of final report • Report amended to integrate comments from consultation workshop
• Presentation of report to key stakeholders for approval
• Copy of the report incorporating all stakeholders’ comments, fully formatted, edited and finalised to a professional printable standard
Qualifications and Experience
Required qualifications, expertise, technical background and experience of the International Consultant
• An advanced Degree (Masters) in Computer science, human-computer interaction, or a related field.
• 8-10 years virtual innovation experience
• Proven experience analyzing requirements, and translating into specifications for feasibility
• Experience in managing projects involving systems analysis, design, development and implementation, and/or provide key inputs for the establishment of long-term solutions
• Experience engaging with stakeholders and beneficiaries to assess feasibility of virtual innovations
• Experience with working to design large-scale digital experiences that meet business objectives
• Prior experience working on GBV and/or gender projects is desirable
• Prior experience working in projects focused on women and girls is desirable
• Prior hands-on experience in innovating and using modern technologies and methodologies to support United Nation’s learning initiatives is desirable
• Experience with qualitative research or feasibility testing
• Strong understanding of confidentiality, safety and ethical concerns related to working with women, girls and GBV survivors in line with international standards (e.g. GBV Minimum standards)
• Attention to detail, excellent organizational skills, ability to work well with others.
• Ability to work with virtual teams
• Excellent organizational and analytical skills
• Excels in collaboration and is team-oriented
• Excellent oral and written communication skills
• Fluency in English is required. Fluency in Shona or Ndebele is desirable.
How to Apply
Apply online, visit the website below.
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