My stay in Baghdad has been exciting and productive so far. I recieved a new work plan this week that should carry me through the rest of my time with the Iraq Access to Justice Program (A2J). I recieved an assignment to conduct two trainings with five legal clinics that are recieving grants from A2J. Using my previous experience in grant writing, I will be training the legal clinics on how to develop concept notes. This capacity building training will hopefully allow them to better pitch their projects to international donors, the govenorates, and the central government as opportunities for funding becomes available. The first training will be tomorrow, and I'm very excited! This past week I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Judge Mohamed Maini from the Shurra Counsel; the advocacy component of the program wanted to discuss draft legislation on persons with disabilities and legal aid funding. He is an excellent supporter of the program, and his insight was very helpful. One of my long term projects for the program will be researching best practices for legal aid delivery to develop a monitoring and assessment tool for the various legal aid providers (primarily NGO's). The assessment tool will help provide feedback to legal aid providers in the following areas: availability of legal aid, quality of services, and cost-effectiveness. I've learned that the monitoring and evaluation component of legal aid is essential as it keeps all stakeholders abreast of progress and helps legal aid providers better serve the indigent population.
I could drone on and on about work, but the social encounters I've had so far have been great too. On Thursday, I got to leave the compound and travel to the Internation Zone (IZ) with three other A2J staff. Once there I attended two parties, one at the Dutch Embassy and the other at the Italian Embassy. It was great to meet other professionals working in Iraq and learn about their experiences. I have also become friends with several Jordanian Expats living on the compound. I really enjoy hanging out with them because they help me practice my Arabic, and also make excellent Jordanian food! I am slowly but surely getting accustomed to the Iraqi dialect and really enjoying my time in Baghdad. Ma Salama!