Training members of the refugee communities you work with to be legal advisers themselves can be a highly effective way of multiplying empowerment and awareness among the refugee population. Refugees may trust members of their own community more, and seek their help before that of an organization.
By situating legal advisers within communities, it is easier for refugees to access legal advice: they do not have to travel to offices, urgent help can be on hand out of office hours, language or cultural barriers are removed, and empowerment is spread.
When training community legal advisers, you should follow much of the same curriculum as with Volunteer Legal Advocates (VLAs). Special attention should be paid to ethical issues however, given the increased risks of breach of confidentiality or conflict of interest.
Community legal adviser (CLA) role
- Link between your organization and refugee populations (neighborhoods, camps, ethnic groups): identify refugees and remit them to your organization.
- Detect areas where many refugees live.
- Inform and orient refugees about the RSD process and access to rights.
- Support workshops alongside organization staff or volunteers.
- Support other community legal empowerment (CLE) efforts.
CLAs will have diverse backgrounds, availability and roles. They must always be given training and ongoing support by your organization.
When recruiting CLAs, look for:
- Interest and motivation to participate,
- Tact and disposition to work with vulnerable people and other ethnic groups,
- Ability to orient people from a rights-based perspective,
- Previous experience in community processes.
Whilst desirable that CLAs are refugees themselves, this is not entirely necessary.
You should also consider that the refugee community may wish to vote for CLAs or other community leaders.
Community legal adviser training considerations
- Prepare a simplified version of the RSD process and refugee rights trainings used for full-time, experienced advisers with formal legal training.
- Tailor your case studies to the specific context of the community legal adviser.
- Community legal advisers can also serve as alert network focal points e.g. for SGBV, landmine issues, rights abuses, protection issues.
- Community legal advisers can be integral in elaborating and achieving community action plans.
- Nairobi code in depth.
- Non-discrimination principles.