As Azerbaijan modernizes its judicial processes, facilities, infrastructure and human capital, the World Bank-financed Azerbaijan Judicial Modernization Project (JMP), approved in 2006, is assisting the judiciary to achieve incremental improvements in efficiency, citizen information and its ability to handle future demand. Financed by two IDA Credits, an IBRD Loan, a Policy and Human Resource Development (PHRD) Grant from Japan and a significant government contribution, the project cost amounts to more than $85 million. The JMP seeks to (a) strengthen the management capacity of judicial institutions, (b) upgrade court facilities and technologies, (c) improve the quality of operations of judges, staff and other legal professionals, and (d) improve citizen information and access to justice. The Ministry of Justice is the implementing agency.
The JMP seeks to reverse previous decades of underinvestment, which have taken their toll on the judicial system. Low trust in the judicial system is compounded by ineffective delivery of quality judicial services. For example, the 2008 Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS) indicates that Azerbaijan’s judicial institutions constitute an important obstacle to private sector development and movement to a more effective market economy. Judicial institutions have achieved important progress towards meeting market economy needs, for example, through the establishment of a more transparent and competitive judicial selection process.
But much more needs to be done, particularly in ways that will strengthen institutional capabilities and improve the quality of services delivered. In recent years, Azerbaijan has experienced rapid increases in incomes and falling poverty levels, fuelled by increasing oil revenues; but it has also experienced the global economic crisis from which the country has emerged relatively well. Azerbaijan’s challenge is now to maintain its development momentum and to transform itself into a sustainable upper middle income economy with a justice system delivering services fully complying with European and international standards the country has committed to as a signatory of treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights.
Concept Design for Yasamal District Court
Project results so far have been significant, including improvements in human capital, the use of information technology, legal aid to the poor, and improved physical infrastructure. Here are some notable examples:
• A more transparent and competitive selection of judges has been established for the Judicial-Legal Council, including their evaluation, promotion and disciplinary proceedings. More than 50% of first instance court judges have now been selected using the new appointment procedures, for which the project has provided new equipment and software to the Judicial-Legal Council.
• Around 700 Ministry of Justice staff has been trained in basic IT courses. A needs assessment for the Justice Academy, including strategic planning, and development of operating procedures and curricula has been completed. Study tours for Justice Academy staff to assist in development of a curriculum are under development.
• An E-Notary system is under implementation, with a program of training notary staff still ongoing.
• Legal Information Centers have been established to provide free legal services to citizens in Baku and Guba cities, which have already provided free legal aid to more than 600 users.
• An ICT strategy and action plan for the justice sector was delivered to the Ministry of Justice; an automated case management system is under development; a document management system and an information network for justice institutions and pilot courts is nearing completion.
Concept Design for Gedebey District Court
• The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court have benefited from additional ICT systems and other office equipment.
• Modern court designs, financed by the project, incorporate international good practices with respect to space standards, IT readiness, functionality, energy efficiency, safety and accessibility. Six court complexes and courthouses are proposed to be constructed, of which one (Oguz District Court) was completed in 2011; three will be completed in 2012 (Baku City Yasamal District Court; Gedabek and Gandja City Nizami District Court); and the remaining two within 2014. Designs for seven additional courts have also been developed under the project.
Future activities include technical support for the Justice Academy and training; development of a Justice Sector Performance Management Framework; a case-file analysis; and professionalization of the Bar.
For further information, please contact Claire Greer (firstname.lastname@example.org)