In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), millions of communities and indigenous peoples are not granted legal recognition because of poverty, lack of access to information, stereotypes and stigma. In response, Forest Peoples Programme is supporting a network of community facilitators, called Community Paralegals, to help people use the law to defend their rights. One critical aspect of FPP’s work in DRC is supporting the legal empowerment of forest peoples.
Legal empowerment is about giving the communities the tools to be their own advocates and the capacity to exercise their rights, either as individuals or as members of a community. It’s all about grassroots justice and ensuring that the law is not just confined to books and courtrooms, but rather is available and meaningful to everybody. Through a series of trainings and capacity-building sessions exploring basic legal principles, human rights monitoring, and human rights mechanisms, FPP in collaboration with six local NGOs working in eight provinces in DRC have assisted communities in creating a network of Community Paralegals, who use legal knowledge, mediation, organisational strategies, education, and advocacy to seek concrete solutions to instances of injustice.
They provide a bridge between the law and real life and form a dynamic, creative frontline that can engage formal and traditional institutions alike and facilitate community-grounded work on a permanent basis. FPP is delighted to unveil this Guide du parajuriste communautaire environnemental Congolais as a legal empowerment tool for community facilitators, and as a contribution to the continuous work to support forest peoples’ efforts to gain ownership of their lands.