International network for advancement trough information
and training to legal and judiciary action
Day to day rights and development
Main Office :
5, rue de la Révolution
Tél : 33 1.48.51 39 91
Fax : 33 1.48.59 61 58
E.mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
ACTORS AND PRODUCERS OF RIGHTS
The re-appropriation of the rights by people
The Law and what constitutes the “right” do not merge into one another. The feeling to have rights, to be facing unfair situations, is pre-existent to the codes and subsists after them and despite them. But the classical process of elaboration and implementation of the Law tends to encourage legal experts and professionals’ intervention, confining people to a passive attitude. What is essential is to consider oneself and to be considered as a subject of rights, that is an actor and a producer of rights. On the one hand, betting to know one’s rights is fundamental to appreciate all the possibilities and limits of the Law while accepting one’s condition ; and, on the other hand, discovering the living content of the Law allows each one to interact with the Law and its environment in a more egalitarian way. Later on, this should facilitate the transition from a passive legalist attitude (the individual –being considered and considering himself as incompetent- is under the externally established Law) to an active legitimist attitude (the person learns to know the Law, connects it to his/her daily life, uses it and modifies it : he/she appropriates it).
The Law, tool of autonomy and development
Legal information and training of people in fields that affect them (land acts, criminal law, labour acts, organisation of the State and the justice…) stimulate their participation and critical reflections on the political system, the authorities, the Law produced by the State. Indeed, knowing one’s and other people’s rights makes people aware of those they are deprived of and of the mechanisms which allows such deprival. Also, it develops the capacity to find means to vindicate one’s rights, and even to create them. This relation to Law, comprehended as a tool of social transformation, encourages people to adopt a more autonomous attitude and to get involved in their own development (not only economically but also socially, culturally and the human level).
THE DIVERSITY OF ALTERNATIVE LEGAL PRACTICES
These practises stem from people and their concerns. They first include the information and the deceiving of the Law, of its instruments and of its experts. Then, they lead to using the Law when it is beneficial, neutralising it when it is detrimental, and producing rights when they are non-existent or insufficient. In countries either from the Souths or from the Norths, a number of initiatives demonstrate the vivacity of these practices. Among many others :
Paralegal experts trained by associations aiming at the popularisation of the law bring information, mediations, and aid in order to help settling their juridical problems (by writing requests, directing people towards the competent institution…) to the grassroots communities they live in (districts, villages…). This work which usually falls to legal experts’ lot, results from the initiative of volunteers (school teachers, farmers, craftsmen…). By appropriating not only the Law but also the mechanisms to deliver its content, they assert themselves as being fully actors of the Law. - Benin –
For lack of adapted answers from the Law produced by the State, shanty towns have emerged after spontaneous occupation of land. After several months of preparation involving architects, doctors, workers, lawyers, etc., families settle down on the land over night. Real rules of organisation and urbanisation are worked out : favelas inhabitants enact rules of construction, elect responsible people in charge of the community’s administrative and judicial problems and set up a land office, in order to make the population feel safe. Occupying the land like this is illegal, but some of thesetowns have been tolerated and then recognised with their own way of functioning. Thus, the authorities implicitly legitimise people’s method. - Brazil –
An association bases its action on a land reform Act privileging the landowners to the detriment of landless farmers. They decided to explore all the possibilities of this Act and to train the affected people. Their work consists in making the farmers aware of their right to the land and to train them to command the juridical tools and to negotiate. Therefore, all sorts of services are provided in order to strengthen land occupation. The results are encouraging since the landless people have driven the authorities to acknowledge the right to occupy 49,000 hectares, and proceedings have been instituted. By basing their action on a text which is detrimental to them, the affected people get mobilised and end up guiding these measures in a favourable direction. They are directly on an existing law, proof that is not immutable. - Philippines -
Local associations put themselves at the disposal of people experiencing conflicts with their neighbourhood. Without settling the question once for all, they make possible first a dialogue between the opponents, then the settlement of the argument. The conflict is solved by affected people thank to the intervention of a third party coming from the same area. This allows the social link –broken by the conflict- to be tied up again, whereas the traditional scenario “conflict-police-justice” would have led to point out a “winner” and a “loser” and to further degrade the social bond. - France-
A NETWOK FACT, ROOTED IN DAY-TO-DAY LIFE
Juristes-Solidarités was impelled by a team of militants, farmers, social workers, legal experts, etc. acting on the ground, outside the legal system.
The Juristes-Solidarités network is not an artificial creation which holds a concept and brings solutions to others : it exists by fact and is rooted in the concrete, that is, in day-to-day life. It gathers “actors” rather than a representative organisation of elected people. It is based on existing practices initiated by groups and individuals from the Souths as well as from the Norths. The way it is composed and its modes of relations are organised informally, with a light associative structure : legal and non legal workers, individuals and more or less structured groups mix together.
The actions set up and organised through these various actors within the network are at the same time initiated by and directed to the most under-privileged people. At the moment Juristes-Solidarités is in contact with 200 groups in the Souths and the Norths. Its work consists in strengthening these groups’ actions thank to existing experiences and reflections which can be shared trough the network.
A FORUM OF EXPERIENCES AND KNOW HOW REDISTRIBUTING INFORMATION AND CREATING LINKS
Set up in 1989, Juristes-Solidarités is an international network for Advancement through information and training to legal and judiciary action which supports groups from the Souths and the Norths implementing alternative practises of Law.
Maintaining that the Law is not neutral nor external to oneself, Juristes-Solidarités fits in with a dynamics of support to practises aiming at enabling people to become actors and even producers of rights. It identifies, makes an inventory of and puts together such practices within its world-wide network.
The activities of the Juristes-Solidarités network consist in :
Identifying individuals or groups which develop legal alternative practices; Connecting its members of the occasion of regional meeting (Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, North America…) in order to share the experiences and know how they carry. Encouraging the emergence of joint projects aiming at strengthening these practices and at socialising the reflection.
The role of the International office, the Secrétariat, which provides inter-continental communication consists in :
Promoting the accumulation of experiences which involve using the Law in an alternative way, and of the reflections which come out of it. This construction of a collective memory materialises in the production of files summarising experiences, in connection with the international “Dph” network of experience sharing, Dialogues et documents pour le progrès de l’humanité (i.e. dialogue and document for the progress of manhood). Guaranteeing the production and distribution of information and organising the network through the Courrier de Juristes-Solidarités, the contact newsletter published in three languages : French, Spanish and English. Training and growing the awareness of responsible people in NGOs, social workers, students and militants of associations. Supporting the projects the Secrétariat has identified either methodologically or through a direct participation in the organisation.
“Having access to and producing rights means participating in the life of the city and in the construction of democracy. Law is part of the reality, it is not external to oneself nor exclusively reserved for experts, but in the heart of our lives.” (a militant)
“The way people develop and open out is not only a matter of new technologies which need to be promoted. It also raises the question of a new organisation of the individuals on the base of a new motivation, within the framework of a new type of inter-personal relations.” (an African militant)
“Knowing one’s rights makes people aware of those they are deprived of and of the mechanisms which allows such deprival. It also enable people to find the means of creating rights.” (an Asiatic militant)
“The Lax has an exchange value, which creates social links and solidarity between those who share, defend or claim for the same rights.”(A French militant)
“The aim is to build up spaces within which the communities will get to know their rights and will become active subjects and producers of their norms. These alternative legal practices lie within a project of empowering the people so that they become actors in turning the society into a more democratic and participatory one.” (a Latin American citizen)