A Free Community-Based Practitioner’s Guide: Documenting Citizenship and Other Forms of Legal Identity

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This guide was developed in Response to the Growing Recognition of the opportunity for community-based justice actors to assist individuals and communities suffering from a lack of documentation of citizenship or other forms of proof of legal identity.

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This guide is the result of a series of consultations, discussions on addressing statelessness, and lack of legal identity documentation. In 2012, the Open Society Justice Initiative and Namati launched a collaborative project bringing a community-based paralegal approach to the issue of denial of access to proof of legal identity documentation in Kenya, Nepal, and Bangladesh. At the same time, other organizations initiated similar projects in Western Europe, Malaysia, Chile, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

This guide is primarily for people designing and managing community-based paralegal projects to help clients access documentary proof of citizenship and other forms of proof of legal identity, such as birth certificates. However, it will also be useful to those undertaking legal aid, litigation, and non-litigation advocacy work, as the issues that it seeks to address frequently lie at the intersection of laws and how they are applied in practice. This guide may be useful if your project can or will work on any of these issues:

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  • Nationality rights
  • Birth registration
  • Other forms of civil registration (marriage, divorce, adoption, death certificates)
  • Access to documentation
  • Effective citizenship rights
  • Community legal empowerment
  • Non-discrimination
  • Minority issues
  • Child protection
  • Migration
  • Immigration detention
  • Refugee and asylum issues
  • People trafficking
  • Internal displacement
  • Housing, land, and property rights
  • Access to basic services (education, health, etc.)
  • Rule of law and governance

This guide provides advice and support for paralegal work on documentation of citizenship and other forms of proof of legal identity. It contains decision-making direction to help project teams and individuals think through key strategic, programmatic, and operational choices and approaches. It provides information related to starting, implementing, and sustaining a project to address the needs of vulnerable populations, as well as to bring about change on a systemic level through community-driven advocacy and strategic litigation. It provides comprehensive information that can be adapted to a variety of situations.

You can download this guide for free here.

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