Myanmar: The “Pro Bonos” in action

MyanmarCapacity buildingNewsPro bono

Myanmar, 27 April 2015 – The Rule of Law Centres Pilot Project supported by UNDP has come to an end. The project aimed at providing training on local justice issues to legal professionals and civil society and at encouraging them to use rule of law principles into their work. Seven legal experts, members of ASF’s International Legal Network (ILN), volunteered pro bono services to the project.

Seven ILN members – the “Pro Bonos” as they were fondly referred to by the project team – had the opportunity to share the experience of implementing the Rule of Law Centres Pilot Project in Myanmar. Hailing from different jurisdictions such as the United-States, the United Kingdom, Australia and France, the ILN members shared their expertise in different fields such as Criminal, Family, Administrative and International Law and Human Rights. They all brought their knowledge and goodwill to help the Project Team, composed of international and national trainers, in designing curriculum and developing training modules and assisting in community outreach activities.

On my first day, I was tasked with working with a national trainer, Nway Nway, to review the curriculum she had drafted” tells Larissa Dinsmoor, US Attorney of the California Bar Association (cover picture). “We sat across from each other discussing how the information would be taught to others. Even though we had just met, there was an ease and mutual respect between us. I learned from her and she learned from me and finally, our product was solid”. Larissa was based in Lashio, a multi-ethnic city in Northeastern Myanmar. As it was a pilot project and the duration was short, there was immense pressure to draft curriculum and produce high quality training materials. As Larissa recalls, “We all worked together appreciating each other’s individual experience, knowledge and vision. In the end, the Myanmar and international lawyers merged into one indistinguishable force that made a difference” remarks Larisa. But she confides in us with a wink: “What I remember most is the laughter. Despite the tireless hours of work spent designing, editing and implementing curriculum, the Rule of Law team always managed to crack a joke or flash a smile. In this atmosphere, it was easy to make relationships.”

Claire Fenton-Glynn, membre de l'ILN © ASF
ILN member Claire Fenton-Glynn © ASF

An important aspect of the project was to ensure that the Myanmar team and the participants would engage critically in the process. For that reason, the content and the activities were discussed each week, by the international trainers together with the national trainers. Claire Fenton-Glynn (picture) is Lecturer in Law at King’s College, London. She spent one month in Mandalay, the second-largest city of the country. She particularly appreciated this methodology. “In this way, the national trainers, as well as the participants themselves, could take ownership of the process, and we could act as facilitators for their learning, rather than dictating it”, Claire explains.

Claire Fenton-Glynn concludes: “To see the progress made through the development of analytical skills, and know the difference it will make to the way people engage with law, and life, in the future, was particularly significant and crucial in a country that is only just starting to emerge from years of military dictatorship”.

Launched in 2010, the ILN today brings together over one thousand legal professionals from all over the world who are committed to support ASF’s international programs and its missions in the field.

See also the previous story on the Myanmar Rule of Law Project.

Cover picture: Larissa Dinsmoor, US Attorney of the California Bar Association, was one of the seven ILN members involved in the project © ASF