Tetra Tech is building the legal skills of Myanmar’s paralegals– a new but growing community.
Since its inception, Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) has been working with justice sector actors in Myanmar to create a sustainable and inclusive justice environment. PRLP support includes developing transparent and accountable systems to process cases in courts, providing programs to improve the lawyering skills of legal aid providers, and equipping prosecutors with necessary critical case analysis skills. The project later expanded its scope to include paralegals in this process.
In developing countries around the world, paralegals play a critical role in guaranteeing access to justice for marginalized populations. Working at the grassroots level, they are often among the few resources for people with limited means when they need to interact with the legal system, for example to file documents with local authorities to demonstrate land ownership.
Paralegals are a relatively new phenomenon in Myanmar. In October 2015, PRLP and Namati, a US-based legal empowerment program, mapped the paralegal presence in the country. Although only about 300 paralegals were estimated to be active nationwide, many were working in remote areas where some of Burma’s most underserved communities live. To bolster the effectiveness of their services, PRLP teamed up with Namati to deliver a multi-day training course for paralegals in remote Sagaing Region and Chin State. Topics included Myanmar’s legal framework, legal writing, and negotiation. PRLP repeated the course in the Ayeyarwaddy Region in advance of its more recent work with Namati to develop a national paralegal network focused on professional development and advocacy and on creating networking opportunities for the country’s paralegal community. Through these activities, Tetra Tech is helping underserved populations throughout the country access the national justice system.