The Accountability Unit's work comprises four work streams (litigation, advocacy, research and mentoring) but is strategically built around litigation to advance gender based rights. Strategic litigation uses the justice sector to achieve legal and social change through test cases. Strategic litigation is also sometimes referred to as impact litigation because it seeks to have an impact beyond the actual outcome of the case and can be used to:
- Change law or policy that violates constitutions or accepted international human rights norms
- Identify gaps between domestic legal standards and international human rights standards
- Ensure that laws are interpreted and enforced properly
Other objectives for the Accountability Unit include raising awareness; building political pressure; fostering public discussion and civil society building.
Strategic litigation can be conducted in any judicial forum, whether local or national courts, or before international judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. There are a number of factors which need to be considered before embarking on strategic litigation including: the risks and benefits of strategic litigation; when it is an effective tool to use; and what ethical considerations may arise when considering to take a legal case, in particular, for an individual client. These are all considerations which we take seriously.
Strategies that support our strategic litigation work include:
- Developing the capacity of lawyers to bring public interest cases to national and regional and international forums
- Providing training on international human rights standards and international jurisprudence
- Supporting NGOs with legal expertise to initiate important cases to advance gender based rights or women’s rights specifically. For instance, by advancing test cases to confirm that laws are being administered in a manner consistent with existing gender based rights or women’s rights or for challenging the lack of domestic laws which are in conformity with the state's treaty or customary obligations