The National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO) is a nonprofit organisation (NPO) committed to the development and long-term sustainability of Community Advice Offices (CAOs).
About Community Advice Offices
CAOs are small, NPOs that offer free basic legal and human rights information, advice and services to people who are marginalised through poverty, social circumstances and geographical location. NADCAO works with approximately 320 CAOs in all nine provinces throughout South Africa.
CAOs have a long history of assisting and mobilising communities that dates back to the apartheid era. In addition to rights-based information, CAOs educate communities on how and where to access services offered by government departments and agencies. The uniqueness of CAOs also resides in their ability to form long-term partnerships with governmental departments, social agencies and civil society organisations.
CAOs work to ensure that the justice system functions better and that the South African Constitution becomes a living reality for individuals and communities. CAOs support clients with issues ranging from government grant access, civil matters, labour disputes and land entitlements, among others. CAOs are commonly seen as primary-level entities for marginalised, rural communities.
“There is immense value in Community Advice Offices; their role is profound. They help to advance democracy and are places where people are known and trusted. They have networks, contacts and are best suited to facilitate community consultation, discuss issues of development and encourage public participation,” Janet Love, national director, Legal Resources Centre.
NADCAO was formed in 2005 by an alliance of human rights organisations in response to a weakened CAO sector in South Africa. Prior to NADCAO, the CAO sector was fragmented and lacked the resources to be declared as a national and provincial stakeholder in providing access to justice for the poor and marginalised.
The organisation’s mission is to create a sustainable CAO sector that provides effective service delivery and has an effective voice able to attain recognition, institutionalisation and support from society. The organisation envisions a society in which poverty is eradicated and human rights and social justice is realised for the poor in South Africa. NADCAO’s overall objective is to ensure that by 2013, access to justice at the community level is not only a permanent policy focus but is also characterised by an institutional model that provides structured and on-going support to the sector.
One of NADCAO’s greatest achievements came just last month in conjunction with the National Task Team (NTT) on Community-Based Paralegals (CBPs) – a sub-committee within the National Working Committee that articulates issues and acts as the voice of the CAO sector. NADCAO and the NTT made an oral submission to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development calling for the inclusion of community-based paralegals in the Legal Practice Bill. The Portfolio Committee committed to prepare a report that will accompany the Legal Practice Bill and that will argue for a legislative framework to be developed for the regulation of community-based paralegals and CAOs.
NADCAO’s support with the establishment of provincial forums and National Working Committees contributes to the organisation’s objective to see a consolidated and institutionalised sector where access to justice is accessible to the poor and marginalised.
To view the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices in the Prodder NGO Directory, click here.
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