The Pro Bono and Public Interest Commission [Comisión de Trabajo Pro Bono e Interés Público] convenes and gathers a group of lawyers engaged in providing pro bono services in public interest cases and who understand the law as a tool of social change and modification of public policies.
Organized as a Pro Bono Network of law firms, the Commission provides free legal services to public interest cases which involve collective interests and thus project their effects to broad sectors of the community.
In practice, the Commission operates as a link between individuals or civil entities requesting pro bono services –- pro bono demand -- and the law firms of the Pro Bono Network -- pro bono offer.
The Commission was created in December 2000 by the initiative of a group of members of the City of Buenos Aires Bar Association [Colegio de Abogados de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires] and works in association with other bar associations in Latin America.
In particular, the Commission works on four areas of interest: disability, microfinance, NGO advice and transparency. The pro bono criminal area was set up in 2009 and new areas of interest, such as childhood and adolescence, are scheduled to begin in 2010.
Among the main achievements attained during 2009, we can mention:
As to the area of disability, a favorable judgment was obtained in a summary action [amparo] filed by the lawyers of the Commission against the City of Buenos Aires Government (GCBA) seeking compliance with the 5% quota of disabled employees provided under the Constitution of the City of Buenos Aires.
In the area of microfinance, the approval of a US$50,000 grant was obtained from IDLO (International Development Law Organization) to organize seminars, workshops, conferences and publications with public authorities seeking the amendment of the regulatory, tax and labor frame and to foster the development of microfinance in Argentina. The approval of a trust to generate funding for microcredit ventures was obtained from FOMIN (IDB).
In the areas of NGO advice and transparency, two successful seminars were organized attended by prominent participants in local public opinion. The first seminar dealt with 'NGOs - Legal and Tax Issues', and the second one with 'Political transparency, citizen participation and civic duties of lawyers'. In this area the Commission provides pro bono services to several and prestigious NGOs who conduct activities related to the Pro Bono Network.
Naldo F. Dasso
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee