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Bringing Justice to the Doorstep

Available evidence in Myanmar points to the fact that the majority of people, as in many other countries, do not trust or use the formal justice system to address grievances and injustices. Enduring reforms to the state legal and justice system will take time to take root, potentially excluding many people from any form of justice for years to come. MyJustice is, therefore, investing in strengthening a rights-based approach to community-based dispute resolution (CBDR), as it offers the potential to provide access to justice and grievance redress at the community level if delivered cautiously with an understanding of the socio-cultural context. MyJustice and its partners work with the grain of existing systems, forums and mechanisms that have local support and legitimacy so that such efforts are accepted and sustain in the future.

“Collaborative Dispute Resolution (CDR) training helps us settle issues in our community by improving our listening and negotiation skills. I am really interested in learning about mediation and dispute resolution so I can apply these skills in my community,” said Daw Lay Khine, a woman community leader from Kawbein village in Kyatehto Township. Daw Lay Khine participated in the joint Collaborative Dispute Resolution (CDR) training conducted in Thaton Township, Kayin State by MyJustice partners, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Karen Development Network (KDN). Twenty participants including village leaders, Village Development Committee members, members of community-based organisations, Village Tract Administrators and youth participated in the training.

“This training will help me understand people’s concerns as well as the interest that is motivating both parties at the centre of a dispute to seek a resolution. I will share my knowledge and skills with other village administrators,” said Daw Lay Khine, reflecting on the importance of the training initiative.

Through the MyJustice programme, the NRC-KDN project aims to improve the substantive knowledge and technical skills of community members and leaders on housing, land and property rights and on dispute resolution.

Another participant, Saw Ngwe Htoo, a village administrator from Hton Pho Gyi village said, ‘land-related disputes are a key challenge that our community members face. They don’t have official land ownership documents and they assume they own the land they have been farming for generations. When this ownership is questioned, it invariably leads to a dispute. I believe that the skills I am gaining will really help me settle several such disputes at the community level.’