In 2006, one of my first assignments in Bangladesh was contributing to an in-depth research study on ‘community legal services’ conducted by The Asia Foundation and commissioned by DFID. Little did I know that many years later I would have the opportunity to work on making that research a reality as Team Leader of the CLS Programme from March 2015 to its July 2017 end.
CLS has helped tens of thousands of Bangladeshis get justice, created demand for justice where there was little or none; created supply of justice by modernising local mediation that did not always serve the poor; linked communities and NGOs to government legal aid services and courts and in the process empowered women and changed community norms. Many women and men in CLS working areas have said there is now less domestic violence and child marriage, and greater respect for women’s leadership.
These and other results were thanks to the funding and strategic guidance from DFID, managers at Maxwell Stamp PLC in London, partners at the British Council, members of the CLS project team in Dhaka, cooperative judges in district courts and active leadership at the National Legal Aid Service Organization under the Ministry of Law, and most importantly the staff of 18 CLS NGO partners who delivered quality legal services across 40 districts. A special thank you also goes to my predecessor and former Team Leader Hector Soliman for leading the programme from its February 2012 inception till March 2015.
The research publications, documentary videos, case study stories and more found on this home page provide a wealth of evidence of CLS effectiveness and insight into CLS methods. We leave behind a ‘system of partnerships’, built through the investment of five years of DFID funding and the hard work of CLS team members and NGO partners. But five years is not enough.
So we look forward to launching of a ‘CLS 2’ that can put this ‘system of partnerships’ on the path to greater sustainability through community and government ownership.
Thank you and farewell.
Outgoing Team Leader