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Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement Project External Evaluation

Summary of the evaluation:  Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement Project External Evaluation Background: The Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement Project was a 3-year project starting in 2019 and ended in 2021. The project was established in partnership with NMS (Norwegian Mission Society) and funded by Norad through Digni from the Grant scheme of rights of minorities of faith and belief. The overall goal of this project was to empower downtrodden and marginalized communities which include religious minorities, women and children. To empower these marginalized communities, three thematic areas with relevant activities were designed: 1) Legal empowerment, 2) social and emotional empowerment and 3) peaceful coexistence. Purpose/objective: The goal of the evaluation was to assess how far the project had achieved intended outputs and outcomes, project contribution to the empowerment of the individual, the community and society, unintended (positive or negative) results, the impact of the project on the sustainability of CLAAS and possible improvement in log frame for the next phase. Methodology: Reviewing reports and documents produced during the project, supplemented by interviews with the project stakeholders, i.e., staff and beneficiaries. The interview process was affected by the Covid-19 situation. Key findings: All components of the project are functioning well and CLAAS are on track to achieve their targets, some components will overachieve the numbers assigned initially which shows the need for such interventions. The project is highly valued by all concerned. Legal aid has been provided to 181 individuals so far. The legal assistance was appreciated by alle the families. Shelter support has been given to 181 individuals till July 2021. Only three people were interviewed, however they were happy with the support given by the shelter. All 3 skilled-based trainings are complete, and the last training is going on these days. Staff capacity building sessions for year 1 and 2 are done and for year 3 sessions are planned for September. 16 sessions have been carried out with the community having total 495 beneficiaries. Multiple advocacy and lobbying meetings with international and national stakeholders have been carried out for achieving the advocacy targets of the project. Recommendations: • The legal aid case data should be maintained in the soft form in Microsoft Excel or similar software, which will ensure reporting on the same pattern.• The number of cases and the number of beneficiaries in those cases should be mentioned separately.• There should be some criteria, minimum requirements under the project for taking up the cases for legal aid.• Legal files are comprehensively maintained having relevant court document copies along with a summary of each hearing proceeding. It is suggested that a case-taking up form should be developed, and it should be filled once CLAAS decides to take up any case. Similarly, a case closure form should be developed.• CLAAS may close the case if the beneficiary is not interested in pursuing the case or remains out of touch for long period by filling a case drop form.• CLAAS need clear written policy on how many years they need to have follow-up of the legal cases, all type of cases is included in it, rape, blasphemy, forced conversions, or minority rights.• CLAAS may sign a memorandum of understanding with the Bar Association. This could also facilitate CLAAS in getting cases referred from Bar Association.• Updated referral list of nearby hospitals, emergency numbers, Police Station, fire brigade station, psychologists, mental health specialists contacts should be displayed in the office.• The psychologist should maintain a client file that includes case history, issue/problem faced by victim, and course of action recommended for solving the issue/problem.• A brief written document explaining the complaint mechanism should be provided to each beneficiary of the project.• CLAAS needs to focus on the jails of Lahore if they want to identify the individual for providing legal aid instead of targeting the whole province.• Detail terms of reference may be developed for the committee supervising the shelter.• The social integration program needs to be defined in the project document or Norad application form for differentiating it from community awareness and peace-building workshops.• Feedback forms should be developed for documenting the feedback of the participants of the social integration program.• In situations where the project document or the result framework is silent, both organizations should document any change in plan or targets. There should be formal approval from the donor agency in order to streamline the project activities and avoiding possible conflicts among organizations.• Thematic areas on which the workshops and seminars with the community should be available in the project proposal or approved activity plan.• Link victims and beneficiaries with safety net programs run by the provincial and the federal government for the sustainability of work.• CLAAS should develop a sustainability plan.• Training need assessment may be carried out for staff capacity building. This will allow CLAAS to understand the capacity needs of their staff and highlight the issues on which staff capacities are to be increased.Comments from NMS/Digni:NMS and the evaluator recognize that there were several issues regarding the report and the way the evaluation had been conducted. Amongst others, there is not a lot of data and few people have been subjected to interviews and not a lot of responses has been given by the evaluator to the higher-level results of the project. This has been due to the sensitivity of the subject and lack of access to CLAAS’s primary beneficiaries, the Covid 19 situation that came with restrictions in Pakistan. In addition, the results framework that the evaluator had to work with had major quality concerns and were on mostly output level. However, the evaluation has very good recommendations that NMS also have noticed during the implementation of this project. NMS in coordination with Digni, had decided to have a one-year funding stop with CLAAS. This decision was based on weaknesses in CLAAS in delivering reports and applications on time, documenting the project and follow up. There is an issue in CLAAS in terms of organisation itself, it is still not clear to Digni/NMS who does what and by whom decisions are being taken. NMS is planning to work with CLAAS this year (without Norad funding) on some of the challenges