Community Legal Services (CLS) started as a programme in 2012, with the aim of providing access to justice to poor, marginalized and socially excluded communities in Bangladesh. The programme is funded by UK Aid and is implemented through a consortium led by Maxwell Stamp UK, in association with the British Council and the Center for Effective Dispute Resolution.
The programme is being implemented through a number of national and local legal and development NGOs to:
- Improve the overall quality and coverage of community legal services in Bangladesh
- Build sustainability into CLS programming
- Emphasise coordination of partner organizations' activities towards adding value to and building on work done as part of the CLS programme and work with local and central government to stimulate an enabling environment for improved uptake of legal services
At the end of year three of CLS, the programme has a geographic coverage of 1,232 unions and wards with various legal services and has reached an estimated 8.8 million people, half of which are women and girls. There is still considerable work to be done to create sustainable conditions that enables CLS to arrive at a common set of high quality legal services that the poor are duly informed of, find accessible to and of functional use, and are able to choose from a range of options within suited to their needs.
The British Council, leading the Capacity Building component for the grant beneficiaries, emphasised on the importance of the ‘standards’ as part of the organisational development and longer term sustainability. This treatise is about CLS's preemptive drive towards developing along with its partner organizations, a coherent set of programming standards pertaining to the conceptualisation, design, delivery and development interventions due throughout the life of the project and into the year 2017. The standards are not mandatory, but evidencing that they are built into the core of the service to be delivered provides an assurance that the partner organisation, no matter how big or small, is striving for high quality of service delivery in the most transparent, efficient, and demand driven manner possible. One of the CLS’s successes is that it helped development NGOs to come in the sector of legal services which has increased the options for the poor to get more competitive and good quality legal services available. However, this has also created challenges for CLS to bring two types of organisations at a common quality standards to provide community legal services. Setting up the Standards Guideline plays a very critical role in this, and this has been very well received by the NGOs and the donors.