My main tasks this week were two proposals to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), one for Burundi and one for Cambodia. IBJ has had a lot of success in the past with funding from NED and as a result, I had a lot of good source material to work off of when drafting these two proposals. NED primarily funds only preventative measures, which sets it apart from many other organizations which only want to fund activities that intervene after-the-fact. As a result, I focused on IBJ’s many preventative measures such as IBJ’s rights awareness campaigns and roundtable discussions. The rights awareness campaigns offer a setting where members of the local community can get together to learn about their basic rights and where to find access to a lawyer. These initiatives empower the community to stand up for themselves in the face of corruption, therefore helping to prevent such violations as torture and prolonged pretrial detention. Roundtable events, on the other hand, focus more on the leaders in a community. These events bring together justice stakeholders such as government officials, police officers, prison administrators, and local businesses to discuss the problems facing the criminal justice system. Roundtable discussions and rights awareness campaigns are only two of IBJ’s preventative measures that have shown great success in the past. The provision of a lawyer at the earliest stage of arrest is another tool that IBJ uses to prevent torture and is probably the most direct and effective method in IBJ’s arsenal. By focusing on these tools and the many successes that they have created, I was able to show the benefits of offering a grant to IBJ’s programs in Cambodia and Burundi while also tailoring to the needs of NED.
Another project I worked on this week was probably one of the most entertaining activities I have taken on so far. IBJ is routinely sent success stories from its field offices that showcase scenarios where IBJ lawyers were able to step in and make a difference in someone’s life. The only problem is that these stories are often poorly written because they are roughly translated into English and a lot is lost along the way. For example, one sentence stated, “In 07 July 2015 at 16. 30 minute in the scene of car park near the edge of river in Kor village, Banteay Chakrey commune, Preah Sdech Prey Veng province. The accused named Sopheap male 50 years old was a worker on cut the rope of sack of rice and another man named Sokha was a worker to carry on the shoulder of sack of rice foward to boat.” This sentence is representative of the entire story. My job was to take sections such as this and clean up the language in order to create a coherent and captivating story that we can put up on IBJ’s website or send out to potential donors. It is a very fun process that functions sort of like a puzzle, where you have to put together the pieces and try and figure out the context surrounding the details. In this particular story, a Cambodian man accidentally killed a co-worker who was attacking him and as a result he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison even though he turned himself in right away. An IBJ lawyer caught wind of this case, however, and stepped in to offer his services. After proving that the killing was unintentional and in self-defense, the lawyer was able to reduce the sentence to one year. Actions such as this can mean the difference between life and death not only for the convicted individual but also that person’s family. If this man had been imprisoned for fifteen years his family would surely have starved as he was the only source of income for the family. He had a small child and his elderly mother that he was taking care of and without him they could not have survived for fifteen years. This is why the work of IBJ is so important: the impact of helping a single defendant has far reaching consequences for everyone surrounding that person. Every pre-trial detainee given a voice by an IBJ lawyer and every vulnerable individual who has had hope restored to them creates a domino effect for the rest of society. Those people are not only able to return to their families but also can act as advocates for the cause of basic legal rights in order to make sure that others do not fall victim to the same system as they did.
Next week I look forward to finishing my two proposals to the NED and starting the many others activities that I have been assigned such as a proposal to the MacArthur Foundation that could be worth up to $100 million (which would be phenomenal because most of the grants that IBJ receives are only around $50,000-70,000).