Barefoot lawyers: Defending community resource rights in the Philippines
The creation of Community Paralegal Teams (CPLTs) is hinged on the premise that laws are created to protect the rights of citizens and the public interest. Economic or social status should not be a hindrance to the enjoyment of such rights. However, in order for the law to be genuinely effective it must be understood by those whose rights it aims to protect. In rural Philippines, basic public services including local government remain distant from many poor communities, and access to formal judicial processes is as elusive as it is expensive.
This paper has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.~The CPLT tool was set up in the Philippines by the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center/Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE-Philippines). The tool aims to train local people in how to gather information and document evidence to build a legal case to defend their rights over land and natural resources. The work of these young, highly motivated and trained paralegal community members has resulted in many successful outcomes including, amongst others, the withdrawal of a mining company from community lands.