Transparency of Laws
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Access to justice system lacked the simplicity of laws, ambiguity of the entire legal system and courts procedures, absence of any legal guidance to the 200 nationalities living and working in the UAE, absence of innovative solutions to simplify and explain the laws to the public in a modern and creative way using multimedia tools. Expats living in the UAE were not aware of the local laws and had no simple tool to access and understand the laws in an easy and modern way. In addition, the legal information needed for an expat who is willing to do business in Abu Dhabi or who want to relocate to the Emirate was not available online in English. The society was not legally educated enough which represented a problem to both the business side ( Legal challenges facing the establishment of new businesses and attracting new foreign investments ) and the litigation side ( ignorance of the criminal, civil and family laws ) . As a result, the citizen or the expat was unable to understand the law and had no clue what are his rights and his legal obligations and what constitute a breach of law and what doesn’t. Courts received high amount of litigations that could be resolved easily if the parties had the sufficient legal knowledge of their rights and obligations in particular the employment and family disputes. As most people lack the legal knowledge and does not want to contact a lawyer or cannot afford the legal fees, a lot of people gave up their rights only because they don’t know they have one. For example, laborers who can’t read and write and who do not understand the official language and who can’t afford the lawyer hassle and fees, they became victims of employment abuse. Same with Domestic violence victims who were not aware of their rights and what to do if they became a victim to domestic violence. For all these reasons, we noticed that we have a problem in terms of transparency of laws and that the legal knowledge didn’t reach the majority of the vulnerable who need it the most

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In no more than 600 words, summarize what the initiative is about and how it solved the problem. This should include a description of the strategy including its main objectives and target audiences. It all started with the World bank report that the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is ranked low in terms of attracting foreign investments, the report suggested that the transparency of the legal system is one of the major issues and challenges that needs to be improved. The initiative started first as a portal to attract foreign business by explaining the business laws and procedures, however the initiative transformed to an entire project covering the entire legal system ( criminal, family, business , civil and constitution ) with the aim to evangelize the legal knowledge in the society. The strategy consists of: • Creating an online legal portal in most spoken languages with the goal to simplify the legislations and explain the laws in an easy and attractive way. • Creating 50 learning object videos transforming the legal boring texts into an attractive animated graphics which help the audience to understand the law via video in both Arabic and English • Creating a Video portal targeting the most vulnerable audience ( blue laborers, maids etc ) in their own languages ( urdu, Ethiopian etc ) • Creating 500 legal guides which consists of the summary of legislations and regulations covering all aspects of laws in Abu Dhabi. • Creating a portal where the user can search and find lawyers and law firms by filtering the location, reviews and fees. • Creating a collection of cartoons designed especially to target children audience with the goal to make them understand the right and wrong from a legal perspective in a very simply way as part of 2015 children legal knowledge year. • Enhancing the online portal with a mobile bus court that can reach the audience everywhere offline such as universities, labor camps, rural areas, old people etc. The bus court has 2 floors has a built in court that can reach people anywhere in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. • Create an online legal aid portal attached to the main legal advisor portal targeting the most vulnerable laborers such as the blue collar labor and the domestic workers ( maids ) by providing them with short videos on their own languages ( Urdu, Ethiopian etc. ) explaining their rights and obligations in the country and how to report an abuse case against their employer

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The initiative is the first project in the middle east that focus on the legal literacy of the society and how to improve the legal knowledge in an interesting and easy way benefiting from the technology and the audio visual techniques. The law by its nature is not always easy to understand and for non-lawyers its very complicated to read and understand the legal texts without legal expert help, the initiative main goal is to spread the legal knowledge and awareness to non-legal persons which is the majority of the society, by utilizing the latest available technology in a simple and interesting way. This combination of law and technology is the first of its kind in the region and its combating the ignorance of the law and assist and protect the public by offering them an animated legal aid online.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The transparency of laws project started in 2012 in collaboration with the world bank and Thomson Reuters Corporation. The different stakeholders involved in the project met different time to agree on the topics and lay out of the portal. The parties agreed to work on 3 years plan, first stage will focus on commercial and employment laws, 2nd stage will focus on criminal and judicial procedures, 3rd stage to cover family and civil law. The workload was divided as follows: • ADJD to propose the legal topics that will be covered in each of the portal • Thomson Reuters to recruit of team of 4 legal writers to summaries and write the legal guides ( 150 guides per year ). Each guide to cover one specific topic in law for example ( maternity leave in the UAE etc. ). The guides are written in simple language and easy to read style for people with no legal background. Thomson Reuters also recruited a linguistic writer with the role of simplifying the style of the guides. Afterwards, the Arabic guides are translated into English. • ADJD legal team to review and approve the guides and forward them to ADJD technical team in order to upload the guides online. • Thomson Reuters in London to produce 15 learning objects ( Videos ) explaining the laws via audio visual materials. For example a video explaining the court procedures or a video explaining how to protect a patent or a copyright or a TM in the UAE. Once the videos and the guides are approved, the technical team transform the written legal material into a visual one by producing animated videos in both Arabic and English. During the 1st phase of the project, ADJD decided to attach an additional service to the portal specifically targeting the most vulnerable members of the labor society as blue collar labor and domestic servants ( maids ) . As the audience of this portal might not be able to read and write, this portal is exclusively videos, it explains the rights and obligations of the low income laborers in very simple language that enable them to understand their rights which helps protects them from mistreatment and abuse. This also came in light of the different accusation fro the HRW regarding the status of the low income laborer in the emirate and the HRW comments on the abuse of maids. This portal will be attached to the main legal advisor and will be available in buses commuting blue collar laborers and in public transport in order to reach the targeted audience. The videos, in addition to explaining the rights and obligations, will also be a legal shield for the vulnerable members of the society by guiding them on how to take action against their employer in case of abuse or mistreatment and who to contact and how. Everything stated above is also available inside the mobile court.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
• Abu Dhabi Judicial Department • World Bank • Thomson Reuters London ( Project Management ) • Thomson Reuters Dubai ( Legal Writing ) • Hub TV production UK LTD ( video production ) • Other vendors involved in the upload and technical work
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The project was funded by ADJD, the cost was around 1.5 million USD

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
• The willingness of ADJD management to change the status quo and assist the public in better understanding their legal rights and obligations • The world Bank effort to contribute in the Emirate legal development thru transparent of the legislations • Collaboration with Thomson Reuters legal teams in London and Dubai • Support of Abu Dhabi Government with the funds and budget which helped the initiative to expand.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
ADJD appointed a team of around 6 employees to monitor the progress of the work and to manage the project in cooperation with Thomson Reuters. This includes a legal team responsible of approving and reviewing the accuracy and quality of the guides, a technical team in charge of auditing the videos produced in London, a communication team to monitor the overall project management side and collaborate with Thomson Reuters in terms of delivery and deadlines

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
• To summarize the laws: tons of legal materials ( legislations, regulars, orders and court decisions ) had to be reviewed and summarized by the legal writers. This was tackled by creating a min team of legal writers from Thomson Reuters and supervised by ADJD legal department, the legal writers had a team leader whose responsibility was to create a work plan of legal research of materials using the Westlaw gulf website and ministry of justice legislation portal in addition to ADJD legal library, this helped the legal writers to have all required legal materials needed to write the legal guides. • To visualize the legal texts into animated videos. In cooperation with Thomson Reuters, ADJD suggested 45 topics to be tackled by videos in addition to the legal written guides, ADJD choose the most demanding topics in each legal field , Thomson Reuters was in charge of preparing the scripts and creating the animation in cooperation with Hub TV LTD in London. The expertise of each stakeholder involved in the video process helped the overall project to produce high quality videos in few months. • To meet deadlines: As the project has 3 stages, the deadline for each team was tight and this added more pressure on everyone especially that some teams work overseas ( London - Abu Dhabi ), appointing a senior project manager who travel daily between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and monthly to London was the best solution in order to smoothly meet the deadlines and coordinate between the different teams. • To reach vulnerable audience: One of the obstacles was how to reach the most vulnerable members of the society who mostly need legal assistance, whether maids or blue labor workers, ADJD decided to not only make the legal assistance available online, but also to expand its coverage to public transport , shopping malls and the mobile court as it visit most of the regions and areas in the emirate.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The initiative has a long term goal which is to assist the public to respect the laws by understanding it, therefore ADJD doesn’t expect to see the impact in a year or 2, the goal is to make the public dependent on the legal portal for all legal enquiries this way ADJD online portal play the role of a legal shield in the hand of the society. Transparency of laws will also have a positive impact in terms of foreign investments in the Emirate, by proving the foreign investors with transparent legal system and clear laws , the foreign investor will be able to easily understand what the law says from how to establish a business in Abu Dhabi to how apply for a commercial license or even what the law says in terms of employing staff in the company. On the other hands, employees will be able to know their rights and obligations which will protect them from being mistreated or abused by their employers. In addition, the society will have better understanding of the family laws related to divorce, marriage , domestic violence and wills, this will help the person to be well prepared to get into legal commitment by knowing what is right and what is wrong. The courts will be able in several years to deal with a better legally educated society, whether a claimant or defendant, the parties to a dispute will have the basic legal knowledge of the laws in the emirate and will be able to understand the procedures in front of the different courts and who is doing what. This will tackle another issue which is the abuse of the law firms and lawyers in terms of asking for high fees for legal consultation, with the transparency of laws project the public will instead be able to understand the law online by watching a 2 minutes video or reading a one page guide summarizing a 10 pages of raw legislation. Making the public dependent on an online legal advice portal will also improve the government long term plan to switch to a smart government using eservices via the internet. The project in its next phases will see other developments such as switching to a complete e-court system which enables the public to deal with the court online by submitting all legal documents online instead of the traditional manual method. Also by legally educating the public, the amount of disputes and cases in front of the courts will decrease as the public will be ab anitio aware of his legal rights and obligations which makes it more difficult to get engaged in wrongdoing. Also the mobile court will play a vital role in switching the entire legal system from the based court system to a cloud court system available anywhere anytime. As this is a long term plan, ADJD will measure the impact of the project by analyzing the number of cases comparing to previous years, the number of visits to the portal, the number of clicks on videos, the amount of enquires received by the online legal clinic.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The initiative is financially sustained and supported by of ADJD as its part of its strategy to combat legal literacy and ambiguity of laws. The project has seen different development thru the last 2 years from a simple transparency portal to a mobile court to a vulnerable legal portal. ADJD management has fully supported all the innovation and creative ideas in order to grow and expand the project. The execution of the project costs millions of Dollars and its still growing. Many judicial bodies in the region have shown interested to copy the same idea in their countries such as in Qatar to face the problem of blue collar labors involved in the world cup scandal construction

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Transparency and laws moves hands in hands together to create a healthy legal system surrounded by a community aware of its rights and obligations, its never enough to focus on developing legislations without thinking on how to make the law available and easy to understand for the public. Technology is moving fast and the legal system has to follow it, using the methods of yesterday for the future will not help in creating a modern and efficient society. Abu Dhabi 's plan to be one of the top 5 governments in the world by 2030 means that the society must be legally educated by spreading the legal awareness to all members of the society. Using the latest technology and out of the box solutions to explain the law is the best method to combat the ambiguity and complication of the laws, the project managed to make the laws more easy to understand in less time .

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Abu Dhabi Judicial Department
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Mohamed Hesham Elrafei
Title:   Mr.  
Telephone/ Fax:   +971566083584
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   m.elrafei@adjd.gov.ae  
Address:   Po box 84, Abu Dhabi
Postal Code:   84
City:   abu dhabi
State/Province:   abu dhabi
Country:  

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