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Evaluation of the “Providing Access to Justice – Legal Awareness at the Grassroots Level” Project Timor Leste for Avocats Sans Frontières Brussels
Executive Summary
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.
b) The strengths of the community education component are that it uses a long term engagement with the target communities, has developed effective materialsand participatory methods including drama, role plays and films. There is strong recognition of the project, particularly arising from the use of drama and other education techniques. Many participants in the community education components are aware of the content, including the difference between civil and criminal cases, women’s and children’s rights. It can be concluded that the project has directly contributed to an increased awareness of aspects of the formal justice system and human rights among target communities. This component could be even more effective if it was extended to include community empowerment for putting rights into practice and problem solving.
c) Access to justice for women and other vulnerable groups requires that deeply held traditions and attitudes are challenged. This is a long term process to which the project, through its awareness raising among the CLLs and the community leaders, has made a significant contribution. However, ongoing change will require further empowerment of women within the communities.
d) While the project has concentrated on enhancing access to the formal justice system, the work of the CLLs bridges the formal and traditional justice systems. This varies from village to village and requires more research. However, the first point of dispute resolution outside of the family remains the Traditional Leaders, or Lia-nain.
The new government of Timor Leste has indicated a willingness to engage with the traditional justice system and has recently commissioned major research into such systems throughout Timor Leste. Future phases of the GJP should seek ways of engaging with the Lia-nain. This would complement the development of a network of resource people for women’s legal empowerment but it should not necessarily be to the detriment of current CLL networks which, at least in some villages, provide an alternative for those not satisfied with the services offered by the Lia-nain.

e) The project has made considerable contribution to building local capacity including ASF staff, staff of NGOs and of the CLL network. Partnerships with NGOs are not the only, and not always the best, way of building local capacity. Allocation of resources for building capacity of local NGOs should not be at the expense of building capacity of direct beneficiaries – the CLL network/s, women’s legal empowerment resource people – and community members. 



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