Abogados Sin Zapatos: The Central American Forest Communities Paralegal Project
Globalization has arrived to the deepest recesses of Central America ‘s frontier forests. Large and small-scale forest resource exploitation and infrastructure development projects such as Mundo Maya and Plan Puebla Panama have descended upon the indigenous and campesino communities of the region. Many communities are dependent on government authorizations to retain their resource rights. Yet these remote forest communities lack basic access to legal services ensure their contractual or tenure-based resource rights or defend environmental and community rights in the face of new development threats. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, a novel approach to this problematic was developed. In Ecuador, a cadre of community paralegals has been trained to serve as legal intermediaries between local communities and the institutions with whom they must increasingly interact.
Representatives from the Interamerican Development Bank (left) listen to the concerns of a forest community association over a proposed National Park that overlaps their resource concession. The confrontation took place in Peten, Guatemala during the Clinic’s community paralegal workshop and served to illustrate the potential value of the proposed program