Community Legal Field Workers
In This Section
In the Congo Basin, indigenous peoples and forest communities have become extremely vulnerable due to discrimination, exclusion from governance processes and rights violations.
This project aims to support indigenous peoples and forest communities to realise their rights and be part of the political decision-making processes that affect their lives and the ones of their children.
There are currently two community legal field worker projects under way:
Building legal capacities to support the rights of forest communities in the Central African Republic and Gabon. This project began in October 2011.
Mapping and Forest Governance in the Congo Basin (CLFWs is one of three components of the programme in DRC). This project began in April 2013.
- Restriction of land use and/or land occupation, access and use of natural resources of forest communities due to the settlement of natural protected areas and the lack of consultation or participation to manage natural resources.
- Conflict related to land occupation and use, caused by the presence of private companies (logging, conservation for carbon credits, agribusiness, tourism, etc.) without Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), without fair compensation to ensure benefit sharing from forest exploitation revenues and a lack of a local development plans with logging companies.
- Lack of legal recognition of communities’ legal entities to deal with logging companies for benefit-sharing mechanisms and local development project that severs communities’ collective interests and that respect traditional governance and social organisation.
- Lack of political/institutional representation and inclusion in the governance decision-making process that concerns their rights and lives.
- Systematic discrimination, non-recognition of national citizenship and basic rights negation of indigenous peoples
- The CLFWs understand community challenges at the legal level and are able to support communities in claiming their basic civil and political rights, non-discrimination, as well as their rights in relation to forest lands and resources
- Forest and indigenous communities in the Congo Basin realise their rights taking an active and legitimate participation to forest management and related decision making processes to improve their living conditions.
- Constructive and permanent dialogue between the communities, the local/national authorities and relevant stakeholders such as private companies is on route to improve governance by ensuring communities’ rights to FPIC and political representation.
- At the local, national and international levels, have the human rights-based approach and legal capacity building recognised as a sustainable and efficient way to protect forest and indigenous communities’ traditional way of life and to improve their living conditions
- Capacity building activities of local communities, NGOs and authorities to support the implementation of national law and international obligations protecting (ex: implementation of ILO Convention No. 169 in the CAR, Forest Code in Gabon, Conservation Law in DRC, etc.) around logging concessions, national parks, and other externally controlled areas, as provided in law; and identify gaps in the law to provide recommendations based on community based issues and cases
- Providing local proximity legal support combined with community-based and participatory approaches enabling local communities guide the project and make decisions about how it should be working, with special attention to gender sensitivity and cultural specificities
- Developing mentorship and linkages with the academic sector to build bridges between the civil society and the research/ teaching sector order to institutionalise the CLFWS approach and train law students directly when they are still studying
- Linking field work and lobbying/political work using initial data gathering and community consultations and field cases to document adequate arguments based on community realities, experience, expectations and capacities and bring them to national debate with a wide range of stakeholders (administration, private sector, universities, etc)
- Raising awareness of the situation in the Congo Basin, particularly amongst international organisations, multilateral and bilateral donors and conservation NGOs.
- 220 paralegals and key local representatives across CAR, Gabon and DRC have been trained.
- 3500 community members have been trained on various issues affecting their communities.
- In Gabon, 32 indigenous children have successfully obtained birth certificates.
- Four communities in Gabon have put their legal knowledge into action by engaging with logging companies and tourism operators, which has resulted in some financial compensation for those impacted.
Estelle MAMOUANDJA, from Ikobey, explains the significance of getting citizenship for their children in order to access education and health services at a national workshop in Libreville, February 2014.
"Equality of rights and non-discrimination are crucial for indigenous peoples who have been marginalised for years. Our children need better basic rights protection, they have the right to get citizenship and have access to education and healthcare. We need special support as Community Lawyers do because we live in isolated places where there is no local authority who cares about us."