Legal Aid to the Rural Population, phase II

Title: Legal Aid to the Rural Population (phase II)

Project period: January 2011 to December 2014

Budget: DKK 6,712,775

Donor: Danida

Partner organisation: Vietnamese Lawyers Association (VLA)

Background and target group:
The target group for this project is the rural poor in the northwestern provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Lao Cai in Vietnam. The selected districts in the provinces belong to the very poorest districts in the country and are also areas where illiteracy is a widespread problem especially for women. Up to 85% of women in some of these districts are unable either to read or write. Often the girls do not attend school for more than 4 years. The project is targeted at both men and women, but the partner organization will organize activities so that even women who are illiterate can benefit from the project. The areas are isolated and there is very little access to information and people often do not know much about their legal rights and options. New rules and regulations are communicated poorly out to these people who live remotely. They have many questions regarding especially land rights such as access to land and land use. Some is concerning conflicts between villages on the use of arable land, where the authorities have not been clear in their decisions. People are also uncertain about the opportunities and rights for resettlement when land or whole villages are being expropriated as a result of construction, road building or construction of hydroelectric plants. Other problems relate to the rights of education, healthcare and uncertainty in relation to civil law, succession and laws related to marriage. The populations of these regions are often dependent on their traditional set of rules (village laws), which act as internal standards in the community. Legal aid in rural areas is not sufficient and the local authorities find it difficult to perceive the citizens’ needs.
Generally it is difficult to get access to legal counsel, since this kind of advice is provided mostly by private law firms, which are very expensive and their offices are far away from the villages, thus the poor and disadvantaged people in the mountainous areas have no access to legal aid. This part of the population is entirely dependent on the general information provided by local authorities. When the communication and information flow is inadequate, there is much at stake for people in these remote areas.

Purpose and method:
The project aims to enhance ethnic minorities’ awareness of their legal rights and enable them to contact the relevant authorities in case of conflicts and disagreements. The long-term development goal is that the local authorities incorporate relevant issues into their development strategies and so that the starting point will include considerations for the current problems and situation of the rural population
The be able to fulfill the aims, the project will implement a large number of “mobile legal counseling clinics” where a group of lawyers go out to the villages and offers legal assistance based on needs identified in the current village. In addition to addressing the villages in general, there will also be set up small groups where people with a specific legal problem (e.g. problems with large scale plantations overtaking the land) can get help. Finally, there are a number of existing locally based organizations that are supported in relation to the legal problems they may have. The project will publish a large amount of legal advice material which partly is to be locally distributed and partly to be placed with some of the groups, to create small and easily accessible libraries, in order for the villagers to have easier access to the material on the most urging legal issues.