We are pleased to welcome you to the website of the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC). This site details many of the activities and achievements of our organization, and reflects the deep commitment of our staff to promoting good governance of land and natural resources for social justice and inclusive development. It is also contributing to the promotion of the rule of law, justice, and democracy in Cambodia.
The recent years have been very challenging but successful ones for CLEC. The highly publicized challenges that CLEC has confronted safeguarding rights to LNR and the fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of expression and assembly of LNR communities, LNR activists/human rights defenders have only strengthened our resolve and served to demonstrate the urgent need for promoting and protecting legal rights in Cambodia. CLEC will continue responding to the needs of target beneficiaries, partners and other stakeholders including (1) local communities, CBOs, and community-based paralegals, (2) local and national NGOs, (3) sub-national authorities (commune councils, district and provincial departments, district and provincial administrations), (4) national authorities (ministries, national authorities, general departments and departments), and (5) private/investment companies, in jointly strengthening good governance of land and natural resources for vulnerable communities who heavily depend on land and natural resources to access social justice and inclusive development.
We are fully aware that there will be significant challenges to overcome during the coming years; but with strong commitment from our staff and the continued support of our partners, we will continue to fulfill our mission.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Management Team, we would like to express our profound gratitude and sincere appreciation to our donors, partners, public institutions, colleagues in the legal field and clients for their valuable support and continued cooperation. At the same time, we extend our deep gratitude to the staff, advisors, technical assistants and volunteers at CLEC for their efforts in achieving our organizational goals.
Please explore our website to see the many ways we can assist you in understanding the issues and how we all can serve better the communities.
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CLEC’s comparative Advantages
About CLEC’s strategic litigation
Strategic litigation is a form of CLEC‘s legal aid service undertaken by deep-experienced lawyers and legal officers with legal expertise and legal advocacy skills. Strategic litigation refers to outstanding civil land-and-natural-resource (LNR) claims of vulnerable communities and LNR-related criminal cases against LNR community representatives, LNR activists and LNR human rights defenders (HRDs) or against violators to LNR-community rights, aiming to enhance respect for the human rights and the provision of remedies to target clients through proper application of law by all levels of the State’s administrations, law enforcement and judicial institutions in Cambodia. A further purpose is to promote the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Cambodian society, as enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution and international instruments to which Cambodia is a party. To do so, CLEC selects cases having strong potential to generate publicity and debate, and increase governmental and private sector transparency and accountability.
With clients intimidated with criminal charges, arrest and detention, CLEC brings back their confidence to continue challenging the problems by doing it with all the legal frameworks along with lobby and advocacy to have a high percentage of pre-trial release, lower the sentences as much as possible and the case dismissal.
About the CLEC’s Legal empowerment
To support CLEC’s strategic litigation, CLEC builds strong communities and connects them to alliance/networks for their lobby and advocacy efforts for their case resolution even in court or in other alternative mechanisms. CLEC’s awareness raising and training, exchange of experiences in periodical meetings/workshops are made possible and effective to the target communities, their representatives, activists and HRDs so that all of them can speak out for resolution in a lawful, non-violent and more professional way through community advocacy actions/campaigns, various media including the social media and other meetings/forums.
The connection with and support from outside communities, nationally and internationally using follow-money strategy hugely contribute to their legal empowerment and influence. Like the example of CLEC sugar case in Srae Ambel in Koh Kong, CLEC and community-clients have connected international NGOs and law firm to file the case in the National Human Rights of Thailand, to European Union’s Everything But Arm, to Bonsucro (an association of clean sugar business in Europe) and the court in England to get enough influence for the resolution.
About community-based paralegals as a local legal resource or citizen advisor
CLEC’s established paralegals are carefully selected from community representatives, social/land activists, labor activists and unionists and well-respected persons at certain local communities/workers to be local legal resource persons supporting their own communities/workers and other communities/workers in legal training, legal consultation, local dispute resolution/mediation, and community advocacy actions. Up to now, there are 254 paralegals (69 women) scattered in 18 provinces/capital. They play crucial role to contribute to CLEC’s legal empowerment, CLEC’s strategic litigation, and also in the effective engagement for all actors to get together to talk and discuss cases/issues in peace table or multilateral dialogue.
The community-based paralegals are sustained due to their living within the communities for a long run. Their role in legal support for their community will be soon legalized in the coming draft law on legal aid drafted by the ministry of justice with strong support of the UN Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights in Cambodia (OHCHR). Even though the discussion of the draft law has been made several times, the ministry of justice and its experts are still drafting it, and it is not yet shared.
About CLEC’s peace table or multilateral dialogue (mediation and conciliation of cases)
Peace table or multilateral dialogue/meeting is the legacy from the project framework of Ministries of Interior and Justice supported by UNDP and implemented by CLEC in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri from 2007-2010 to promote Access to Justice with Special Support for Indigenous People. Among other legal aid and capacity building to the indigenous people, indigenous traditional authorities, and local authorities on land rights and rights of indigenous people, Peace Table was a component that peacefully addressed LNR issues affected the indigenous communities under the form of mobile mediation.
This model has been replicated and integrated into CLEC programs until now, and more than 30 cases have been successfully handled using such cooperative and peaceful approach. The peace tables were successfully organized where all parties (affected communities, companies, business and powerful people) and concerned actors were invited to a multilateral meeting/dialogue under the chairmanship of officials from the Ministries of Interior and Justice or the provincial government officials.
The peace table organized by CLEC is just a form of forum or venue of engagement between all actors/stakeholders in an issue/case to conciliate/mediate the issue/case in a peaceful and equal manner. CLEC is just a facilitator, or sometimes hires an independent mediator/conciliator if necessary, to facilitate/mediate the case/issue. All parties can use the forum/venue for their equal discussion and decision to accept or not accept an offer at their free will. CLEC has to ensure that the venue/forum is used without any force or duress, or cheat.
The peace table also assists CLEC strategic litigation alternatively in solving the cases when the empowered communities influence to get all actors to come for peaceful discussion and solution.
Partnership or alliance building
CLEC strength relies on joint/synergic effort of NGO-partners, communities, LNR activists/HRDs and the support of national and sub-national administrations (duty-bearers), private sector and other stakeholders. It is a strategy to build partnership or alliance. Effective engagement for LNR good governance and for LNR resolution in an equal and peaceful manner comes from this strategy.
In other word, CLEC is just an actor complementing and contributing to partners its unique expertise in strategic litigation, legal empowerment, community-based paralegal services and effective engagement to a holistic effort to promote LNR good governance for social justice and inclusive development. In CLEC’s strong background, the 12-year-old sugar case in Srae Ambel, Koh Kong province is finally solved through joint efforts of CLEC’s alliance of NGO partners in Cambodia, Earth-rights International office in Thailand, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, some donors in European countries to advocate with EU’s Everything But Arms and Leigh Day Law Firm in England in a lengthy struggle with hard advocacy by filing it in Cambodian and English courts and other complaints to EU’s Everything But Arms, Thai Human Rights Commission, and Bonsucro (A responsible sugar business association with its headquarter in London, UK). The case also, at the final stage, was so attentive to EU to push for a transparent and accountable resolution of the government in 2018 when CLEC had the opportunity to engage with the inter-ministerial committee for resolution of cases on sugarcane plantations for exportation, the sub-national authorities in Koh Kong province and the involved companies to effectively have multilateral meetings/dialogues with affected communities and NGO partners.
The sugar case as well as the case of the major development project of the government in the Koh-Sdach coastal areas in Koh Kong leased to China’s Union Development Group (UDG Case) affecting 1963 families of farmers and fishery communities; the case of the communal land titling process of 3 Kuoy indigenous communities in Promae commune, Tbaeng Meanchey district of Preah Vihear infringed upon by 5 Chinese sugar-plantation companies; and other CLEC’s outstanding cases has generated the joint efforts from such partnership or alliance with all actors to complement each other and to contribute different roles in strategic litigation, legal empowerment, community-based paralegal services and effective engagement to a holistic effort to promote LNR good governance for social justice and inclusive development.
CLEC commits to take on all principles in the do-no-harm in all CLEC intervention, CLEC policies, and staff behavior to avoid harms from CLEC performance as much as possible. All CLEC program intervention will be beneficial to all actors ranging from the affected communities, the concerned NGOs, authorities, private sector and other stakeholders. CLEC’s efforts for the promotion of civic engagement in the multilateral dialogue/peace table and the building of partnership and alliance are the contribution to the do-no-harm principles making sure all are not exclusive from the benefits.
By the new structure of CLEC in the 5-year strategic plan 2019-20123, under the Executive Director, the Operations Director (OD) will be in charge of all 2 integrated programs and finance and administration and human resource. The OD is the main responsible person of the management and coordination of the CLEC programs and projects, after consultation with ED and, if necessary, with the management team (Please check the CLEC Structure below). The 2 integrated programs are:
- Legal Empowerment Program: To be managed by a Program Manager to strengthen the capacities of all actors in the areas of land and natural resources (LNR), including the vulnerable communities heavily depending on LNR, LNR activists/HRDs, youths and community-based paralegals, the governmental authorities, private sector and other stakeholders to be able to effectively engage each other to take LNR cases/issues and related policies for redress;
- Access to Justice Program: To be managed by a Program Manager to ensure social justice is accessed by target beneficiaries (local LNR communities, CBOs, LNR Activists, HRDs, and paralegals) through legal aid and other mobilization of support, and all partnership with NGOs, governmental authorities, private sector and other stakeholders are able to work in good faith together to solve LNR cases/issues and related policies in transparent and accountable manner and in the form of multilateral dialogue or peace table.
The two programs are closely complementing each other to reach CLEC goal that “Within 5 years, the vulnerable communities in Cambodia who depend on land and natural resources accessed to social justice for inclusive development”.
CLEC will develop project proposals that will come across the 2 programs, meaning a project may consist of legal empowerment and also access to justice components altogether. By this, a potential responsible person of the project can be assigned by OD after a consultation with ED on qualification and the balance of the person’s burden. An outsourcing person can be hired to be the responsible person of the project under an overall supervision of a well-deserving PM through the life of the project, when internal burden is foreseeable.
The implementing staff can also be mobilized from the two programs and those from finance and administration department to undertake the activities in the projects. A global plan with certain activities, responsible persons, timelines, etc. of all projects has to be developed to be able to smoothly coordinate them.
The Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) was created in 1996 as legal resource center, promoting the rule of law, justice and democracy in Cambodia. From 1996 to 2001, CLEC operated as an arm of the University of San Francisco School of Law, funded by USAID. In December 2001, CLEC became a locally registered NGO.
Since its establishment, CLEC has taught over five thousand Cambodians in different subjects of law through its “certificate in law” program. CLEC has also produced a legal text-book series, which represents some of the only Cambodian legal texts on a wide range of subjects.
CLEC has reached its potential over the time by employing strategic litigation, legal empowerment, community-based paralegal services and effective engagement to fulfill its mission that builds legal empowerment to vulnerable communities affected by LNR issues to promote LNR good governance for “Social Justice and Inclusive Development”. With qualified lawyers and legal professional and rights staff, CLEC has involved in advocacy activities regarding a number of significant legal reform issues including the 2001 Land Law, the sub-decree on indigenous communal land titling within indigenous peoples, the establishment of the Arbitration Council, the election dispute resolution process, the drafting of the Peaceful Assembly Law, and commentary and review of numerous pieces of legislation.
CLEC believes in itself to extend its legal professional staff and expertise for the successful implementation of its organizational development and its programs. The experiences since its localization in 2001 includes the provision of legal awareness and education to thousands ranging from communities to academic people, governmental authorities and private sector, handling hundreds of public interest/strategic litigations and advocacy in LNR-related criminal cases and civil LNR claims, community empowerment and civic engagement to solve more than 30 LNR cases using mobile mediation or peace-table beside the not-predictable judicial system.
As of now, CLEC has 5 full Board of Directors (3 women), its executive director with 20 years in leadership, strategic litigations/lawyering and arbitrator service, 2 program managers, 2 lawyers, and 4 senior and program officers with legal background and experiences in legal empowerment and advocacy, and engagement of more than 10 years, and other support staff from finance and admin to jointly support the implementation of its strategies.
CLEC’s mission is founded in the following beliefs:
- Human Rights
- Good Governance
- Social Justice and Harmony
- Gender and Inclusiveness
CLEC works to build legal empowerment to vulnerable communities affected by Land Natural Resources issues for access to justice and inclusive development.
ប្រជាជនកម្ពុជារស់នៅក្នុងសង្គមមួយដែលមាននីតិរដ្ឋ សន្តិភាព និងសុខដុមរមនា។