Dili, Timor-Leste, 28 October 2008 - To reinforce the capacity of civil society organizations to play a key role in improving access to justice at the grassroots level, the UNDP Supporting Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Promoting Citizen Participation project and Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) recently entered into partnership to provide training to local CSOs in the districts of Dili, Baucau and Liquica. Mr. Nick Beresford, Country Director, a.i. of UNDP Timor-Leste is pleased with the new partnership, noting that “Strong civil society organizations are a cornerstone of democratic systems around the world and in Timor-Leste. Equipping these organizations with knowledge and skills will help to them to engage citizens in all parts of governance, including the justice process.”
The CSO Project works to increase the capacity of a wide cross section of CSOs to deliver civic education across the country. A component of this is to increase understanding of the justice system and the legislation of the country. In accordance with this, UNDP and ASF are working in partnership with the Information Centre for Civic Education in Timor-Leste and the Liquica-based Justice and Peace Commission, which is part of a UNDP funded civic education network, to train CSOs to bring simple messages about rights and justice to isolated communities. The trainings will contribute to the goal of delivering civic education on the organs of state to poor communities.
The CSOs receive specialized training from the experienced Avocats Sans Frontières team on justice-related topics and then pass this information to community leaders at the suco level in their districts through interactive and participative workshops.
These community leaders trained by the CSOs will be a part of a growing network of over 170 “Community Legal Liaisons (CLL)” that ASF and its partners have trained over the past four years with support, most recently, from New Zealand Aid and the Canada Fund. “These CLLs play an important role within their communities – acting as an information source, providing mediation services and linking rural people to the formal justice system” says Carolyn Tanner, the Head of Mission for ASF in Timor-Leste. The CLLs help people in rural areas find practical solutions to disputes by sharing basic information about the law and rights and helping community members to access the formal justice system if a problem cannot or should not be resolved at the local level.
The training and workshops conducted through this partnership between UNDP and ASF, which began in August and will be completed in December, are aimed at improving the skills of CSOs and strengthening the existing network of volunteer Community Legal Liaisons in the three districts.