On Thursday, 29 May 2014, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies launched its own Community Engagement Policy. Given the existence of codes of conduct and rules that guide the conduct of lawyers when working with individual clients, this policy was developed to address the particular skills, dynamics and challenges involved in working with urban and rural communities. Taking into consideration the dynamics in engaging with people who are often marginalised, the policy articulates a standard of community engagement, intended to facilitate meaningful representation, partnerships and mitigate power imbalances. A number of guiding principles are devised and elaborated on, drawing on international standards and personal experiences.
Attended by members of legal and non-legal civil society organisations across South Africa, the launch was opportunity for participants to learn about the policy and its development and to learn more of particular case studies and share experiences. With Benchmarks Foundation, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Resources Centre, Natural Justice representative Stephanie Booker gave reflections on the policy and case studies based on her own experiences working with communities impacted by extractive industries and infrastructure projects.