Created in 2005, IDEALS strives to give people caught up in disasters a helping hand with legal paperwork, a crucial step as they rebuild their lives. In a world where legal identity is proven primarily on paper, administrative woes can compound the loss of loved ones, homes and livelihoods, just as government structures are struggling to get back on their feet.
IDEALS stepped up its work in the aftermath of 2013’s devastating Typhoon Haiyan – known as Yolanda in the Philippines. In the early weeks after the disaster, most local government offices were unable to function properly, with basic facilities, human resources, systems and documentation destroyed and rendered non-functional. That raised a growing concern over the projected difficulties the victims were confronted with in filing their requests for legal claims and benefits. As survivors began to look for more strategic actions toward recovery and rehabilitation, the dearth of response to their legal needs and social protection issues surfaced as urgent in the post-emergency crisis situation. IDEALS is driven by a belief that every person has a right to social protection, regardless of class, status, ethnicity and nature of work, and that access to a safety net measures needs to correspond with the end goal of reducing the economic and social vulnerabilities of marginalized communities. Such vulnerabilities are magnified in a crisis situation. In the wake of the typhoon, IDEALS tapped law students from top schools in the Philippines, as well as volunteer lawyers, to offer free legal assistance and help with civil registration. They thereby helped survivors obtain the most basic of legal documents such as birth certificates, certificates of acknowledgment of illegitimate children who have been allowed to use their father's surnames and, sadly but very much a part of reality, the ubiquitous requests for registration of their loved ones' death certificates. According to IDEALS, legal identity, in the context of a major disaster, is a ticket for survival and rebuilding one's life.
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