Effective communication strategy to support changes in Paraguay

Thursday, March 8, 2018

For the first time, the APT facilitated a workshop on effective communication strategy for a functioning National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). This was done in Paraguay, where APT enjoys a strong partnership with the torture prevention body. APT’s presence in Paraguay was also the opportunity to take part in a working meeting for public defenders on the challenges they face in providing legal assistance during the first hours of police custody, as well as to support the incipient collaboration between Paraguay’s NPM and Public Defender´s Office.

Communication, if used strategically, can be a powerful tool for NPMs to achieve their objective of long-lasting changes in deprivation of liberty, so as to avoid torture and other ill-treatment. During the three-day communication workshop facilitated by the APT, members and staff of the Paraguayan NPM agreed that their main interlocutors in this regard, were the authorities, who have the responsibility both to implement their recommendations and to engage in dialogue with the NPM.

With their main objectives and audience in mind, the workshop’s participants went on to discuss the importance of producing well-informed and evidence-based reports. Based on a review of previous reports, they analysed how best to maximise their impact, including through public communications. Recognising the need to speak with one voice to produce effective change, participants also engaged in a crucial reflection on their internal communication processes. At the end of the three day-workshop, they all agreed that careful thought, creativity and detailed planning were the keys to a successful communication strategy, as well as being clear about the limits of their preventive mandate.

“NPMs face a very specific challenge when it comes to interacting with the media as they have to weigh the benefits of ‘going public’ with the requirement of maintaining a constructive dialogue with the authorities,” explained Audrey Olivier Muralt, Director of APT’s Regional Office for Latin America.

The APT was also invited to participate in a working meeting organised by Paraguay’s NPM and Public Defender´s Office, to discuss the challenges faced by public defenders in providing the right to have access to a lawyer from the outset of police custody. In this regard, ensuring that detainees are informed about their rights is also a key complementary safeguard that needs to be implemented. This was also an opportunity to share the examples and main outcomes from APT’s 2017 workshop with Latin America NPMs on monitoring safeguards during the first hours of police custody.

“APT’s workshops have historically served the NPM of Paraguay to reflect about what has been done and what must be done in order to move forward in the implementation of OPCAT objectives,” said Commissioner Soledad Villagra extending her gratitude to all APT staff involved in the project.

The President of the NPM´s Commission, Soledad Villagra, gives introductory remarks at the working meeting, Asuncion, Paraguay, 22 February 2018

Public Defenders discuss about challenges faced in facilitating access to a lawyer to detainees in their first moments of police custody. Asuncion, Paraguay, 22 February 2018