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In the Mekong region, the changes brought about by rapid economic development and investment pose many challenges for local communities. Building and strengthening access to justice is an essential part of promoting development in Mekong countries that is equitable, ecologically sustainable and inclusive of local needs and interests. The use of legal advocacy strategies in the Mekong is growing, as in other regions of the world, yet there is a need to engage the next generation of civil society leaders and lawyers in legal advocacy strategies and equip them with the skills and experience necessary to strengthen the voices of local people within legal processes.

Mekong youth leaders and junior lawyers have limited opportunities to study or undertake legal advocacy study or practice, so it is important to create opportunities to share the experiences of practitioners in the region who have successfully managed to do this kind of work in an effective way. Recognizing an increasing need for understanding legal advocacy, supporting access to justice and regional collaboration, EarthRights International launched the Mekong Legal Advocacy Institute (MLAI) in 2009.

EarthRights established MLAI to provide a forum for youth leaders and junior lawyers from the Mekong region (Vietnam, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and China) to share experiences, learn and develop new legal and advocacy strategies, and take effective coordinated action on environmental and social issues focused on strengthening decision-making around development projects. Central to this mission are periodic experience sharing sessions that bring in expert lawyers from the region to share skills and offer guidance in key areas of emerging law in the Mekong, such as environmental impact assessment (EIA)land rights, and corporate accountability frameworks for outbound regional investors.

Are you a youth leader or a junior lawyer, who is passionate about combining your legal skills with strategies to support communities to strengthen their voices within legal processes? If you answered yes to this question, then the Mekong Legal Advocacy Institute (MLAI) training could be just the thing you’re looking for!

What is the Mekong Legal Advocacy Institute training?

The Mekong Legal Advocacy Institute (MLAI) is a platform for young public interest lawyers, policy analysts, campaigners, community leader, and NGO coordinators from the Mekong Region. It brings together professionals who share EarthRights International’s desire to use the law and legal advocacy as tool for human rights and environmental justice.

During an annual two-week intensive training program, participants will have a chance to engage at local, national and international levels to seek collaborative solutions on issues of environment and human rights.

The MLAI training has engaged with young, legal advocates, helping build knowledge, skills and network to study and practice legal advocacy to support communities’ needs. The participants are a new generation of activities committed to combatting earth rights abuses.

Mekong region is rife with rapid economic development and investment, which has brought along changes that also pose major challenges for the communities living in the region. How can we support them voice their concerns? To seek solutions to these questions through a training, MLAI is currently seeking junior lawyers, legal advocates, youth leaders and NGO workers from the six Mekong countries – Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

What do you need to apply?

  • Demonstrated interest and commitment to the issues of human rights and environmental rights in the context of large development projects.
  • Understanding of legal language and legal processes.
  • Interest and commitment to public interest litigation, community paralegal support, and/or legal advocacy work.
  • Commitment for the entirety of the program.
  • Ability to travel and valid travel documents to travel to Thailand.
  • A good understanding of spoken English, as the mode of instruction is English.

We will be covering the following topics during the training:

  • Human rights and environmental rights, and national, regional and international legal frameworks.
  • Business and human rights, and corporate accountability.
  • Importance and use of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
  • Environment and human rights case preparations.
  • The context of earth rights defenders: Protect, prevent, reveal and redress framework.

Field trips and networking events with senior legal experts are woven into the training.

Stay tuned to hear more about MLAI in 2021.