What We Do

In promoting the rule of law in developing countries, IRLI seeks to undertake collaborative projects aimed at enhancing the provision and protection of human rights, democracy and good governance. To date projects have addressed the broad spectrum of rule of law: from capacity development of national judiciary to legal aid and legal information at a grassroots level.

IRLI has specialised in three programme areas:

  • Access to Justice
  • Institutional Capacity Building
  • Clinical Legal Education.

Access to Justice Programme Malawi

2017-05-12 09.18.33In partnership with the Malawian Judiciary, Legal Aid Bureau, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Malawi Police Services, IRLI works to improve the criminal justice sector by providing direct access to the justice services to detainees and people in conflict with the law, increasing institutional capacity on due process rights and challenging a culture opposed to restorative justice. Six IRLI expert lawyers are permanently present in Malawi, with four of these seconded to the key institutions for mentoring purposes.

In 2018, IRLI trained 564 police officers in child justice and 6 advocates in trial advocacy from the DPP and LAB. In addition to this, 127 children were released on bail or diverted through the Child Justice Court. Four community awareness sessions were held on bail, child diversion, and child sexual abuse, reaching 600 people. A Homicides Working Group was also established, comprising the DPP, LAB and the judiciary, to enable parties to quickly address issues and ensure that homicide trials proceed smoothly.

Read more about our work in Malawi here.

Institutional Capacity Building in partnership with Government Institutions

Below you can read a short summary of some our recent successful capacity building activities, which are carried out in partnership with relevant government and other institutions, and are always driven by the expressed needs of these partners.

Commercial Law Training Programme, South Africa (2002-Present)

2017-05-11 15.16.36This project is run in partnership with the Law Society of South Africa and was previously supported by Irish Aid in South Africa. The programme is now supported by Matheson. Advocates from historically disadvantaged communities (about 20 per year) are engaged to strengthen their skills with a view to increasing their opportunities for undertaking commercial law work, ultimately improving economic development. IRLI has also supported professional exchanges through placement of selected lawyers in Irish and South African Firms.

Group1Arbitration and Mediation Training Programme, Tanzania (2014-2016)

The project was run in partnership with the Tanzania Judiciary, the Irish Judiciary and Court Services and University College Dublin. It included provision of intensive training to 6 members of the Tanzanian judiciary in Dublin, along with training for 20 members of the Tanzanian judiciary delivered by an IRLI delegation of experts in Tanzania.


13263840_991508707585540_8845471421754489908_nTraining to Senior Judicial Assistants, Zambia (2009-2016)

The programme was run in partnership with the Office of the Chief Justice in Zambia and aimed at improving the efficiency of the Zambian Judiciary. IRLI facilitated an exchange of judicial assistants between Ireland and Zambia and provided targeted training to 35 Judicial Research Advocates in Zambia in 2016.



Clinical Legal Education

Freda Grealy facilitating WorkshopIRLI has partnered with BABSEA-CLE in Vietnam and Myanmar to provide clinical legal education and advocacy training to promote acceptance and empowerment of marginalised groups and a more ethically-grounded law profession. Our work in Myanmar has linked with the annual Mock Trial Event, organised by BABSEA-CLE and attended by students and lecturers from 18 universities across Myanmar.




IRLI develops and implements collaborative, needs-driven projects with a priority on:

1.         Access to Justice

Rule of law is what gives citizens political and legal voice. This requires mechanisms of redress, so that citizens can claim their rights. These mechanisms, in turn, depend on the quality of access to justice, due process and minimum levels of effective, equal and predictable application of the law. IRLI primarily focuses on legal aid programmes and the training of legal professionals through the establishment of formal law schools.

2.         Human Rights

Human rights norms, as delineated in regional and international conventions and instruments, outline the accepted values and standards of treatment of individuals and groups, thereby setting the limits of state power in national contexts. Rule of law is seen as directly integral to the implementation of these rights, as rule of law is also concerned with the proper exercise of authority and power by the state. Our work in this area concentrates on education and increasing awareness of international human rights standards.

3.         Reform of the Courts and Judiciary

Rule of law relies on the independence, accountability and transparency of judicial systems, and to this end IRLI projects assist in the drafting and enacting of court rules, promote judicial education and training, and seek to enhance court administration and efficiency.

4.         Development of Commercial Law and Procedures

It is commonly believed that sustainable economic growth relies on prosperous private enterprise that is free from arbitrary government interference. More importantly, with the onset of globalisation, international players are persistently seeking out new markets in which to trade and invest. Law is the common basis on which parties can make agreements; it provides parties with confidence that disputes can be resolved efficiently and fairly. Consequently the predictability and order that rule of law promotes in substantive laws is regarded as the stabilising force behind much economic development. Our work primarily involves capacity building in commercial law practice and procedures.

5.         Improvement of Title to Law and Land Transfer

The poor can be legally empowered and poverty reduced when enforceable rights over property and other assets are put in place by a transparent, functional system. It is vital to implement an equal system of rights, obligations and enforcements that enables all citizens to protect their assets and use them to obtain credit, secure investment, raise productivity and protect their rights.

There is also widespread demand for a mechanism to resolve property disputes, especially those involving land, livestock and commercial matters. Land tenure is a key point of friction while a method of ensuring the predictable enforcement of contracts is also essential to support economic activity. IRLI seeks to assist in projects for the establishment of courts or tribunals to deal with the recognition of property, particularly informal land assets, and realisation of a fair and unequivocal legal framework to deal with land tenure conflicts.

Other work

In addition to stand alone projects, IRLI further seeks to:

1.  Facilitate opportunities for Irish and Northern Irish lawyers to use their skills overseas through voluntary internships or placements;

2.  Meet the legal needs of development organisations through the provision of free legal advice and assistance by Irish and Northern Irish volunteers;

3.  Draw together a network of engaged lawyers who have contributed or wish to contribute to the use of law as a tool in international development;

4.  Promote awareness and learning on how law and lawyers can support progress in developing countries through meetings, events and publications.

IRLI firmly believes that, in advancing sustainable respect for the rule of law, a multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach is required. As such, while harnessing the talent and dedication of legal professionals in Ireland and Northern Ireland, we hope to further engage with partners from other disciplines.