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Interafrican Meeting on Alternative Legal Practices, Cotonou, Benin, 12-17 Octobre 1992

An Appraisal

03 / 1993

The "Interafrican Meeting on Alternative Legal Practices", organised by ASSODIV (Association for the Development of Village Initiatives, Benin)with the support of Juristes-Solidarités (France)took place in Cotonou, Benin, 12 to 17 October 1992. This activity lies within the context of the "Meetings of Saint-Sabin" (exchange meetings on a common subject, among persons engaged in the same actions and who hope to put their reflections and concrete experiences together, under the aegis of the FPH (Foundation for the Progress of Humanity). It is also in line with our project of undertaking a global exchange among actors from differents continents.

The idea of organising an interafrican conference began to take root immediately after the mission organised by Juristes-Solidarités in several West and Central African countries. It is the consequence of exchanges on the subject of practices and projects and the realization of the need for groups to get together and share experiences, which should be an educational experience at the same time.

The objectives of the conference were

a)to introduce the practices and to stimulate African groups to think together, leading to mutual self-education,

b)to move towards a systematization of experiences, which means retrieving, organizing, and analysing information to enable the reconstruction of an experience in its context, to understand the stakes at work, to enhance the value of actions in order to form new perspectives;

c)to capitalise on the work realised during the conference using the form of a synthetic document;

d)to reach a common strategy, at first Inter-African, then South/South and South/North.

The workshops were centered on the analysis of these practices. Among the big themes for reflection during the plenary sessions are : " Do alternative legal practices exist in Africa? What are the differences between the alternative practices and the general customary practices? The basis of an alternative use of laws--their links to present practices; multilinguism, literacy, and juridical information, juridical pluralism , the relation between law and democracy in Africa, the comparison between Latin American legal services and Those of Africa. The participants also dialogued with Manuel Jacques, director of QUERCUM (Chile)and member of the Executive Council of ILSA (Latin American Institute of Alternative Legal Services, Colombia), who spoke on the conditions surrounding the beginnings and the development of alternative legal services in Latin America.

It was suggested to devote a working day on information concerning the DPH network (Dialogues et Documents pour le Progrès de l’Homme = Dialogues and Documents for the Progress of Humanity), in which Juristes Solidarités is a member. The objective of DPH is to set up a data bank for the capitalisation of experiences and the building up of a collective memory. This session ended with the presentation of the practices, using the form of cards, and a debate on subjects like information, the needs of grassroots groups, the role of North / South relations in the production, the use and circulation of information.

Regarding the fixed objectives, it was realized that the representatives of 13 organizations from 8 different African countries, who had never met before, managed to use the conference discussions to their advantage. In fact, they took on varied tasks, which helped them understand the various practices much better ; they looked for the challenges which needed to be taken up and reflected on perspectives of this mutual discovery. A coordination team of 3 members, with the task of following up of the conference was elected.

In January 1993 ASSODIV published the full report on this conference, in order to record and give value to the work done at the conference. There is also a video-cassette recording of the main conference events.

Key words

law, democracy, training, experience capitalization

, África


The lessons from this initial experience, which Juristes Solidarités proposes to develop further, confirms the importance of giving time to self-education, facilitating the taking on of tasks and responsibilities by people from the grassroots in the management and realisation of projects that concern them. The staff was moved by the way the participants took on the initiative of organising a programme of activities which would allow them to meet again and get to know each other better, and eventually plan out common projects.


Original card in French in Dph data base. The ’title/sub-title’ field corresponds to the ’translated title’ field in the French card.

See the report: "Les pratiques alternatives du droit (rencontre interafricaine), Cotonou, Bénin, 12-17 octobre 1992, Bénin, Juristes-Solidarités, ASSODIV, FPH, 1993, 183p.

Contact : ASSODIV- BP 06733 - Cotonou - Benin - tel 229 321 522 Person to contact : ATTAKLA AYINON, Julien.


Articles and files

JURISTES SOLIDARITES, Rencontre Interafricaine sur les Pratiques alternatives du droit, Juristes Solidarités in. Le Courrier de Juristes Solidarités, 1992/09 (France)

Juristes Solidarités - Espace Comme vous Emoi, 5 rue de la Révolution, 93100 Montreuil, FRANCE - Tél. : 33 (0)1 48 51 39 91 - France - - jur-sol (@)

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