The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) announced a $13 million grant to the University of Washington (UW) Law School’s Asian Law Center to continue an innovative legal education program for Afghanistan. The Legal Educators Support Program - Afghanistan (LESPA), administered through the University of Washington Law School, provides graduate education opportunities to Afghan law deans, professors, and other professionals who will return to Afghanistan to continue as legal educators in universities. This grant will fund the University of Washington program for an additional five years.
The University of Washington grant was originally awarded in late 2004, and allows participant Afghan legal educators to gain advanced LLM degrees at the University of Washington Law School. The program also exposes participants to the American system of higher legal education and offers support for professors interested in increasing pedagogy and research skills. Legal educators from most university law schools in Afghanistan have participated in the program, including the Shari’a and Law & Political Science faculties of Albironi, Balkh, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz, Nangahar, and Takhar Universities. Participant study takes place both in Afghanistan and at the University of Washington in Seattle. Since the program began, 229 Afghan legal educators, deans and students have participated in the project, including 36 women. Fifteen educators have completed their advanced LL.M degrees in Seattle since the program’s inception.
The program focuses on building strong relationships among legal educators. Upon return to Afghanistan, graduates of the program actively collaborate with each other to teach and lead the next generation of Afghan law students. Graduates of the program have set up the first law school-affiliated legal clinics in Afghanistan. LESPA alumni are at the forefront of scholarly and pedagogical reform in Afghanistan, and new program recruits cite the stellar reputation of the UW graduate network as a key element in their desire to participate in the program.