This month’s features resource is Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice: Community Paralegals and Customary and Informal Justice by the International Law Development Organization (IDLO).
This Working Paper explores the role of community-based paralegals in promoting access to justice, and identifying challenges, entry points and good practices in paralegal services, with a focus on CIJ systems and in the context of sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing from IDLO’s programmatic experience and practitioners’ perspectives collected directly from paralegals operating in Eastern and Western sub-Saharan Africa, this Working Paper identifies roles for paralegals to: (1) strengthen or support customary or traditional leaders in their roles as justice providers; (2) promote minimum standards in the operation of CIJ mechanisms and enhance protection of human rights especially for marginalized communities; and (3) enhance understanding of justice challenges at the community level and build an evidence base to inform policy and legal reform.
In the past two decades, development assistance in the justice sector has paid increasing attention to the contribution of customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems in enabling access to justice while ensuring no one is left behind. While CIJ systems offer affordable, timely, flexible and culturally relevant means for resolving disputes and protecting legal rights, evidence shows that in some contexts, these systems perpetrate structural discrimination, unequal power relations or harmful practices. Engaging with CIJ is especially important in fragile and post-conflict contexts, where formal justice institutions often lack cultural relevancy and legitimacy, public trust geographic reach or capacity, and CIJ is often more accessible to large sections of the population, particularly women and vulnerable groups.
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The Featured Resource is a short profile of a key resource found in the resource library of the Legal Empowerment Network. These resources can be older or brand new, but they all touch on important themes within legal empowerment. If you have a resource you would like to profile with the network, upload it directly at this link or email it to email@example.com