The Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) was created in 1996 as a legal resource center, promoting the rule of law, justice, and democracy in Cambodia. From 1996 to 2001, CLEC operated as an arm of the University of San Francisco School of Law, funded by USAID. In December 2001, it became a locally registered NGO.
Before 2018, CLEC programs supported vulnerable communities, workers and their unions by combining legal awareness, trainings, legal aid services, and advocacy aiming to empower them to legally assert their rights, mainly to labor, land and natural resources. Its trainings were designed for a wide range of target groups including local communities, NGOs and government officials. CLEC had been involved in advocating a number of significant law reform issues including the 2001 Land Law, the sub-decree on indigenous communal land titling, establishment of the Arbitration Council, the election dispute resolution process, the draft Peaceful Demonstration Law, and commentary and review of numerous pieces of legislation. Since 2004, CLEC has also embarked on a major project of high impact public interest legal advocacy, particularly in the areas of land and natural resources.
Over the period, CLEC keeps reviewing its strategic intervention, and has conducted a mid-term review of its three-year strategic plan 2016-2018 beginning from 2017 affecting both its programs and structure. CLEC has removed its labor program and maintains its focus only on land and natural resources targeting vulnerable communities involved in the protection of rights to land and natural resources (LNR) and LNR-related human rights defenders (HRDs) coming from formal and informal groups and the social workers (NGO workers). With this, CLEC has structured itself into three main programs: (1) Access to Justice Program (AJP), (2) Land and Natural Resource Program (LNRP), and (3) Good Governance Program (GGP).
The review also found CLEC’s three focused themes and strategies that the three programs need to be re-shaped and re-strengthened to avoid confusion of their duplication of their interventions and to make them complimentary and supportive to each other with their own strengths.
Strategy 1 is entrusted to Access to Justice Program (AJP) to take on a theme that ensures access to justice where the principle of equality of arms is enjoyed by the provision of legal aid by lawyers and non-lawyers (community-based paralegals and advanced paralegals) to target communities; Strategy 2 rests with Land and Natural Resource Program (LNRP) to carry out a theme on legal empowerment of the target communities for their meaningful participation and the exercise of LNR-related rights; and Strategy 3 is with Good Governance Program (GGP) on a theme of organizing multi-stakeholders dialogue or peace table to improve the governance of land and natural resources through taking the issues/cases to solve using the alternative dispute resolution process (not in judicial system) and the improvement of related policies and laws with meaningful participation and engagement of all relevant actors including competent governmental authorities, concerned private sector, civil society organizations (NGOs) and the target/affected communities.