Vance Center Focuses on Consequences of the Pandemic

March 2020

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The Vance Center has initiated several responses to the pandemic, across our programs, while maintaining all work remotely. The law firms regularly collaborating on pro bono projects have demonstrated resilience and renewed commitment, and our civil society partners are refocusing on particularly vulnerable communities.

The Human Rights and Access to Justice Program, through its Women in Prison Initiative, is mobilizing its network of women prisoners’ rights advocates to assess government responses throughout the Global South to prevent and respond to the spread of the virus in detention centers. We will look particularly at how such responses take into account the special circumstances and vulnerability of women, in line with well-established international and regional standards regarding the treatment of women in detention. The Vance Center will produce an advocacy guide on best practices for a gender-sensitive response to preventing and responding to the epidemic in detention centers.

The Pro Bono Network of the Americas convened an all-hands call to identify and compare pandemic responses in the United States and Latin America, with particular focus on migrants, people in detention, and recipients of government assistance. The Vance Center additionally is gathering responses from the Lawyers Council for Civil and Economic Rights in the Americas, the chapters of the Women in the Profession Program, our international law firm partners, as well as law firms and pro bono clearinghouse in Africa and Europe, and civil society clients worldwide, to facilitate appropriate adaptation.

The Good Governance Program, through the Lawyers for Reporters initiative, has begun assisting news organizations in the United States to incorporate as nonprofits, or convert from for-profit to nonprofit status. In a remarkable demonstration of commitment under adversity, the Rome office of an international law firm signed on to defend a U.S. nonprofit investigative journalism organization in a threatened lawsuit in Italy.

The Vance Center did have to cancel several events planned for the spring, including conferences in Colombia of the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, the Women in Profession Program, and the Lawyers Council. A panel discussion on the case against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice and events targeting support for the judiciary in the Gambia, eastern and southern Africa, and Mexico also were postponed. However, the Vance Center is continuing to support efforts to develop pro bono practice in East Africa.