The centerpiece of ILAC´s activities in Haiti has for a couple of years been a nation-wide legal aid programme, the SYNAL (Systeme Nationale d´Assistance Legale), which is financed and administered by ILAC, with logistical support by the UN mission in Haiti, which also seconds key staff to the ILAC Haiti office.
At the end of 2010, SYNAL employed some 200 Haitian lawyers in 12 offices around the country. Most of the work consists of legal aid in criminal cases. During the two years that the SYNAL has been operative, we have handled some 8 000 cases, and managed to get almost 4 000 individuals out of jail.
An important contribution to the SYNAL programme is being made by the New York-based ILAC member ISLP (International Senior Lawyers Project), which provides pro-bono mentor attorneys on a continuing basis to the SYNAL offices.
Thus far, the entire ILAC programme in Haiti has been funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). But the Sida money for SYNAL will run out at the end of February 2011. Consequently, the continued funding for SYNAL has been a growing concern for some time. So it is with great relief that ILAC can now announce that UNASUR (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas – the politicial and economic cooperation project, which brings together 12 South American countries) has in December 2010 agreed to ensure the continued funding of SYNAL, beginning 1 March 2011. The money from UNASUR will enable SYNAL not only to continue the operation of the existing 12 offices, but also to expand the number to 20, to cover all of Haiti´s jurisdictions, with 3 offices in the capital Port-au-Prince.
The cooperation between UNASUR and ILAC constitutes an important break-through as it is the first time that ILAC will receive funding from a donor in Latin America. This development is the result of the outstanding work of ILAC´s Haiti Programme Director Francisco Diaz and his team in Haiti, and of Francisco´s reputation and network in the Latin American region.