A notable few —Nigeria, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania—are approaching the challenge holistically. These governments are considering a broad range of service providers within their legal aid schemes, looking to community paralegals in addition to lawyers. Community paralegals are non-lawyers trained in the workings of law and government, as well as in skills like mediation and advocacy. They use their knowledge to seek out practical solutions to instances of injustice. Across the continent, paralegals are helping people to demand and exercise their rights, overcoming common obstacles like cost, lack of awareness, corruption, discrimination, or distance.
Across the continent, paralegals are helping people to demand and exercise their rights.
Last month, over fifty paralegal organizations from twenty African countries convened at a regional meeting in Uganda. Together, they issued the Kampala Declaration on Community Paralegals. The statement urges governments to embrace the potential of community paralegals in three ways—by recognizing their contributions to justice and accountability, investing in the scale-up of paralegal efforts, and protecting the independence of paralegals. The declaration remains open for further signatures.
Against this background, it is regrettable that the latest version of South Africa’s new Legal Practice Bill fails to recognize a formal role for community paralegals. This stance is particularly troubling, given that South Africa is considered the birthplace of paralegals. As far back as the 1950s, paralegals supported black South Africans in efforts to navigate and resist the codes of apartheid.
In this moving audio piece, Seth Mnguni, spokesman for South Africa’s National Task Team on Community-Based Paralegals (NTT) and a long-time paralegal himself, describes the history of the South African paralegal movement and his vision for the future of the profession.
Together with the National Alliance for Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO), NTT has prepared a joint submission to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, pushing for the inclusion of community paralegals in the Legal Practice Bill. NADCAO and NTT argue that the bill cannot achieve its objective of addressing massive gaps in legal access by relying exclusively on community service from lawyers.
The Kampala Declaration urges governments to embrace the potential of community paralegals.
As NADCAO and NTT note, paralegals are often closer to the communities they serve than the typical, city-based lawyer. They also employ a wider and more flexible set of tools. By virtue of their rights-based training, paralegals provide more than just legal services; they are oriented toward broader goals of community empowerment and development. Despite this, the Legal Practice Bill does not acknowledge paralegals as an integral part of South Africa’s legal aid system, nor does it provide them with adequate state support. In the end, this position critically undermines both the legitimacy and sustainability of paralegal efforts.
The submission deadline for comments on the Legal Practice Bill, originally July 27, has been extended. This delay provides a key opportunity for NADCAO and NTT to galvanize support for the inclusion of community paralegals in the legal framework of South Africa.
You can play a role in this effort. Pledge your support to NADCAO and NTT by signing their online petition. The more support they can show for their cause, the greater the chances South Africans will have to enjoy real and meaningful access to justice.
This piece originally appeared on the Open Society Foundation’s Voices blog.
Abigail Moy is Program Director for Global Operations at Namati. She previously worked in access to justice programs throughout Africa, Latina America, and South Asia; the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois; the Office of the Legal Adviser at the United States Department of State; and White & Case, LLP. Moy was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, and holds a master’s degree in law and development from the Fletcher School of law and Diplomacy.
Last updated January 30, 2013.
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Last updated: May 25, 2018
This Policy describes our privacy practices and sets out your obligations and ours with respect to your use of the Site and the Forum. This Policy applies only to the Site and the Forum and does not necessarily apply to our offline collection of information.
Namati may collect and retain two types of information about Site and Forum visitors: (i) personal information that individual visitors voluntarily provide when interacting on the Site or Forum or on certain other occasions (such as via forms or in emails); and (ii) tracking data, which is data that is automatically collected from every Site and Forum visitor as they use and browse the site.
We may, from time to time, store and archive the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum. The information that we gather may include your name, title, and address, telephone number, email address, credit card number or other elements of personal information. In addition, if you contact us, we may keep a record of your correspondence, including any information contained therein.
You may decline to provide any personal information, but please realize that you thereby may be unable to register or to participate in activities or services offered on the Site and/or Forum.
In addition to the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum, we also may collect and store data from and about you gathered in the course of your use of the Site and Forum. We call this “tracking data.”
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Our use of your Information involves various forms of communication with you, including:
We will not disclose any personal information to third parties, except:
Information provided to third parties is limited to the information needed to perform their functions. We seek to limit third-party use of information; however, we are not responsible for such third-party use of information.
We retain the right to transfer or assign all information pursuant to a merger, purchase or other transaction relating to Namati or our assets.
The current list of third-party service providers we use include:
Personal information you submit via your member account, other than information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site as described below, is deleted from Namati’s records following the deletion of your account. However, such information may continue to be retained by third-party service providers to which it has been disclosed for one of the reasons listed above.
Your Information is stored on Digital Ocean servers in New York, USA.
We take reasonable precautions to protect your information from loss, misuse or alteration. You should recognize, however, that there is no such thing as “perfect security” on the Internet, and we cannot guarantee the security of your information. In addition, because Internet communications are unsecure, it is also possible that the information you supply to us or your access of any information via the Site will be intercepted during transmission. We are not liable for any breach of our systems or interception of our transmission, and we hereby fully disclaim, to the fullest extent possible under law, any liability associated with any claim relating to a breach of security, data or information.
You should be aware that any information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site, including but not limited to interactions on the Site and information posted to the Member Directory (via your profile), the Tools Database and the Forum, may be read, collected or used by other visitors of the Site, who may not need to log in as a member to view the information. Namati is not responsible for the third-party use of any information provided in such manner. By participating in the use of the Site’s interactive features, you consent to Namati’s use or disclosure of any content that you submit. For more information on posting content, please see our Terms.
The Forum uses data about your posts and other activity to make automated decisions about whether your posts are spam.
The Forum may also use data about your posts and activity to award you badges and calculate a trust level for your account. Your trust level may affect how you can participate in the Forum, such as whether you can upload images, as well as give you access to moderation and management powers in the Forum. Your trust level, therefore, reflects Forum administrators’ confidence in you, and their willingness to delegate community management functions, like moderation.
From time to time, we may email users of the Site or the Forum information regarding important developments affecting Namati and/or the Global Legal Empowerment Network. We may also email users on occasion regarding the Site or the Forum. Such emails may be sent to users of the Site or Forum even if they have not requested to receive any communication from us.
You may choose to unsubscribe from future emails by using the unsubscribe link included in all mass email correspondence from Namati and the Global Legal Empowerment Network.
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Because Namati is concerned about the privacy protection of children who access the Internet, we comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Accordingly, the Site and Forum are not intended for use by anyone under the age of 13, and we do not knowingly collect information from anyone under 13 years of age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
We reserve the right to disclose any information to comply with any law, regulation, decree, judgment, order, subpoena or any other governmental order (“Order”) without any obligation to contest or verify the accuracy of such Order.
This Policy will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, without regard to any principles of conflicts of law. You agree that any action at law or in equity that arises out of or relates to any use of the Site will be filed only in the state or federal courts located in New York County, and you hereby consent and submit to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purposes of litigating any such action.
The section titles in this Policy are for convenience only and have no legal or contractual effect.
The Site, the Forum, and any third party services they use, may be subject to additional terms and conditions regarding privacy and use of information. Your use of the Site and the Forum is subject to those terms and conditions, which are incorporated into this Policy by reference. In the event of an inconsistency between this Policy and any additional posted conditions, the provisions of the additional conditions shall control.
We may need to change the Policy from time to time in order to address new issues and to reflect changes on the Site or in the law. We reserve the right to revise or make any changes to the Policy, and your continued use of the Site subsequent to any changes to this Policy will mean that you agree to and accept such changes. You can tell if the Policy has been updated by checking the last revised date posted on the top of this page.
You can also access, remove, update or correct your information, and raise any questions or concerns regarding the Site or the Policy, by emailing email@example.com, or mailing:
Namati Data Protection Officer
1616 P Street NW, Suite 101
Washington, DC 20036, USA
If you live in a country which has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (EU; 2016/679), you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority about this policy and its application.
The Policy was updated in May 2018 to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations.