The Grassroots Justice Project has succeeded in developing a network of community leaders who are well equipped to provide basic paralegal services that are highly relevant to their communities. The particular model used is well suited to the Timor Leste context.
The project has also delivered an intensive programme of community level legal and human rights education. Taken together, the two project components have made a significant contribution to improved access to justice for members of the target communities.
It is to the credit of ASF and its partner NGOs that they identified and acted on the need for a grassroots approach to building access to justice and the rule of law so early. The lessons learned from this project, which for Timor Leste is groundbreaking, will be valuable for future phases of ASF’s work but also for other actors who are now recognising the crucial importance of such an approach. The materials developed by the
project team and the enhanced capacity of that team, whose members are predominantly from Timor Leste, are valuable resources for future work in this area.
Key Recommendations and Lessons Learned
a) The network of Community Legal Liaisons or Hatutan Lei ba Kommunidade (CLLs/HLKs) is providing important paralegal type information, mediation and conflict resolution services to target communities as a result of the project. The targeting of community leaders is appropriate as it builds trust and access to the
communities and is non confrontational. In particular the approach builds on the traditional role played by village and hamlet chiefs and as such is likely to have a sustainable impact on the way in which disputes are resolved in the target communities beyond the life of the project. There is evidence of more effective dispute resolution and an increased understanding of which issues need to be referred to the criminal justice system.
◊ Strengthen the CLL networks with a view to them becoming more autonomous and self sustaining.
◊ Conduct more systematic monitoring of the quality of the mediation and other services delivered by the CLLs, enhancing the CLLs’ access to professional legal advice and legal aid when required.
◊ Examine ways in which the CLLS and project staff can facilitate community members to obtain information about cases that are being processed through the criminal justice system.
◊ Conduct more research into the current and potential roles of the CLLs who are not village or hamlet chiefs, especially women and youth leaders.
b) The strengths of the community education component are that it uses a long term engagement with the target communities, has developed effective materials.