Community Legal Services Forum (CLSF) is an initiative to create a neutral and collaborative platform to bring together all donors, international implementing partners, and local organizations working on “legal empowerment,” including especially free community-based legal services and legal aid, for the purpose of increasing access to justice for poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens in Pakistan. CLSF aims to facilitate open dialogue in order to help participating organizations coordinate their activities, increase synergies, minimize duplication, and ensure quality and effectiveness.
CLSF member organizations are supporting or implementing legal empowerment services by non-lawyer community-based paralegals as well as free legal aid lawyers. Services by paralegals can include providing legal information/education/awareness-raising, counseling, facilitation, accompaniment, referrals, documentation assistance, navigating authorities, mediation and negotiation. Services by free legal aid lawyers can include providing legal advice and representation in court. Paralegals are typically non-lawyers who have specialized training and live in the communities where they provide services. They often work together with lawyers or have a network (or “panel”) of lawyers to whom they can refer cases when legal advice and/or representation are needed.
CLSF helps to ensure the quality of community legal services being implemented by different partners and programs, and to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of those programs, by:
CLSF undertakes all of its work collaboratively. The Forum incorporates contributions, feedback and recommendations from members for all of its initiatives.
As of July 2016, CLSF has hosted five quarterly coordination meetings in Islamabad, with active participation from member organizations. In addition, CLSF has made significant progress towards establishing a national pool of Paralegal Master Trainers by organizing two successful phases of a Training-of-Trainers (ToT), facilitating participation by CLSF member organizations in a third ToT phase hosted by UNDP, and beginning preparations for the fourth ToT phase.
CLSF also has developed collectively several standardized resources that will soon be made available for use by community legal services programs across Pakistan. These resources include:
ORIGIN and MEMBERSHIP
The establishment of CLSF was an outcome of a workshop in Bhurban, Pakistan, initiated by Open Society Foundations (OSF). Participants at the workshop represented the European Union Punjab Access to Justice Project (EU-PA2J), UNDP Rule of Law Programme, The Asia Foundation (TAF), UK Department for International Development (DFID), Coffey/Aitebaar (funded by DFID), DAI/EDACE (funded by DFID/British High Commission/Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP), Rural Support Programme Network (RSPN), National Rural Support Programme (NRSP), and Insaf Network Pakistan (INP).
Peace & Justice Network Pakistan (PJN), Legal Aid Society (LAS, based in Karachi), AGHS (based in Lahore), and Trocaire joined CLSF during its first year. Other organizations and projects supporting legal empowerment programming are encouraged to join CLSF by contacting the Secretariat.
The CLSF Secretariat coordinates all of the Forum’s work. The Secretariat was hosted by INP during its first year from June 2015 to June 2016, with funding from DAI/EDACE and technical assistance from OSF and EU-PA2J. The Secretariat rotated to Peace & Justice Network (PJN) in July 2016, and funding is being solicited from donors and participating organizations. For more information, please contact:
Mr. Syed Raza Ali
Executive Director, Peace & Justice Network Pakistan (PJN)
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