We are supporting a number of specific country projects, to test the boundaries of legal empowerment techniques in a range of contexts.
Sierra Leone: The Open Society grantee Timap for Justice has pioneered community paralegal work in Sierra Leone since 2003. Sierra Leone emerged from a brutal civil war in 2001 that had largely taken place in rural areas. There was a critical need for social reparation. Timap uses a network of local paralegals, supervised by lawyers, to benefit rural and marginalized populations by conducting legal literacy campaigns, providing legal advice and consultation, and addressing higher-level legal and policy issues through strategic litigation and advocacy. Sierra Leone has a scarcity of lawyers and legal institutions, especially outside of the capital Freetown. Timap paralegals are often the only resource for addressing disputes.
Ukraine: Together with the OSF-supported International Renaissance Foundation, the project has since 2010 developed a network of 28 Community Law Centers (CLCs) across the country. The Centers offer a range of legal services through a mixed model of lawyers and trained local paralegals, providing access to legal resources and helping increase community participation in governance and dispute resolution. In June 2011, the government passed a new Legal Aid Law, and the project is now assisting the Ministry of Justice with designing implementation, likely modeled on the CLCs. This tests out the parameters of legal empowerment in a post-Soviet context in a deteriorating economy.
Indonesia: OSJI works with other OSF partners (Tifa Foundation, the Indonesia Project and the Rights Initiative) to develop a comprehensive system of legal aid and community justice services across the country. This explores legal empowerment potential in an emerging and strengthening economy. On October 4th 2011, the government passed a Law on Legal Assistance, representing a significant achievement based on a number of years of work. JI is working with universities, government and civil society to help shape and facilitate implementation.
Pakistan: The programme is working with Foundation Open Society – Pakistan (FOSIP) to pilot appropriate models of legal empowerment interventions in the challenging area of KP on the borders with Afghanistan working with Sarhad Rural Support Program.
Roma: Confronted by widespread prejudice and discrimination, marginalized Roma communities confront a number of barriers that restrict both individual’s and communities’ access to justice services. In 2012, the programme will start working with the Open Society Foundations' Roma Initiatives to develop and institutionalize community-based paralegals in Roma communities.
The wider Open Society Foundations network also provides extensive grant making support to a range of civil society organizations undertaking legal empowerment work in all regions of the world. The Global Legal Empowerment Initiative offers support across and learns from the network in a number of ways. We are providing technical support in undertaking justiciable events studies in Georgia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Albania and Pakistan. Other initiatives include joint publications, providing advice on monitoring and evaluation and learning from existing studies, circulating experiences across the network on a needs-basis, and bringing practitioners into the global legal empowerment network. We are currently working in this regard with the Law and Health Initiative, International Migration Initiative, International Women’s Program, Roma Initiative, South East Asia Initiative, as well as regional and country foundation and allied NGOs.