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Finland and the LAC sign funding agreement

Brief comments by Toni Hancox, Director, Legal Assistance Centre on the occasion of signing a funding aggreement at the Embassy of Finland and the Legal Assistance Centre on Friday, 15th April 2011.

Signing the document

Mr Asko Luukkainen, Charge d’ Affairs at the Embassy of Finland Mrs Marika Matengu, Programme Co-ordinator at the Embassy of Finland Staff of the Embassy and colleagues from the Legal Assistance Centre

I always feel humbled at these occasions.  Humbled by the fact that a country so far away from Namibia has contributed so much to the very necessary work of the building of democracy in our very beautiful and, at the moment, our very green and waterlogged Namibia.  As a child growing up here we were so cut off from the rest of the world that I don’t believe I ever really thought about Finland other than in my geography books at school.  And yet, even at that time, we were in the thoughts of the children of Finland and our struggle became theirs too.

The LAC is a non-profit organization and is the only public interest law firm serving the entire Namibian nation over its vast regions. Our services are provided free of charge to our clients – not as a charitable act, but because it is necessary and because it is the right thing to do. Since our clients cannot pay for our services, donor support is essential to our operations.

Our country has a large number of poor people who cannot enforce their most basic rights and it is up to us, as Namibians, to take up the challenge of facilitating that access to human rights which is the birthright of every human being. For democracy to flourish the rule of law needs to be adhered to and for the rule of law to be adhered to, the rights and freedoms of people will have to be fulfilled, protected and promoted. This is not just window- dressing. We need only to look to the situation of our fellow Africans in Libya at present to see what happens when these rights and freedoms come under threat.

We must not become complacent in our relative space of freedoms and rights. The funding we receive today will contribute to the LAC’s work in creating a human rights culture in Namibia by strengthening the capacity of the LAC to deliver appropriate services to its target groups – to assist people to assert their rights and to influence Government to address appropriate law reform when needed. We will also continue to be involved in our education, research, training and information activities.

Some of the activities the LAC will be involved in this year include: The monitoring of the rights of marginalized communities to ensure that they are respected; The addressing of some of the injustices suffered by those living with HIV/AIDS also focusing on those who are incarcerated and therefore even more vulnerable; The continuation of support in the civil actions of the Caprivi detainees engaged in the treason trial; The production of various educational materials, including booklets and comics on women’s rights; Continued outreach efforts in order to raise awareness around family law issues, child protection and gender-based violence; Initiatives to amend and consolidate the two Land Reform Acts, namely the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act and the Communal Land Reform Act as well as the undertaking of research to update the information published in 2001 by the LAC on the status of the San in Southern Africa.

Finally, I thank the people of Finland represented here by the Embassy, for their belief and trust in the work of the Legal Assistance Centre. As the only institution in Namibia that provides the services it does, the LAC will fill a vital gap in 2011 and continue to contribute to the emergence of a strong democracy, based on principles of human rights, people’s participation and good governance. We in turn undertake to use the funding received to create the broadest possible impact and to use same with integrity. You may rest assured that your support is much appreciated and valued in our quest to create and maintain a human rights based democracy in Namibia.

Thank you.

Toni Hancox Director, Legal Assistance Centre

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