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Launch of the COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund

The COVID-19 pandemic is a justice crisis. We are experiencing an explosion of rights violations: from prisoners subject to mass infection, to migrant workers at risk of starvation, to accelerated land grabs by opportunistic corporations. Legal empowerment groups from every corner of the world are striving to meet this moment, but adapting to the evolving emergency is a monumental challenge.

Over the last several months, the Legal Empowerment Network, which Namati convenes, has consistently heard that small, flexible infusions of resources could help Network members adapt to these unique circumstances. A COVID-19 sprint challenge revealed that 78% of respondents have initiatives in mind to better support communities but cannot implement them due to a lack of resources. Over 60% of them reported that they would need less than $10,000 to put their ideas into practice.

For this reason, Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network are thrilled to announce the launch of the COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund. In partnership with The Elders, the Fund for Global Human Rights, and Pathfinders for Just and Inclusive Societies, we aim is to raise US$1 million to invest in grassroots legal empowerment organizations worldwide.

COVID-19 response packages — whether governmental or philanthropic — must include support for the essential work of legal empowerment if we are to realize a just and equitable recovery. With help from the COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund, grantees will be able to demonstrate how modest investments in legal empowerment efforts can bear powerful results. Flexible, rapid-response grants will support efforts to defend rights affected by lockdowns and emergency measures, help discriminated groups gain access to life-saving aid, advocate for equitable pandemic recovery plans, and more.

As Ban Ki-moon, Deputy-Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, said:

“We need to ensure that justice is at the heart of the COVID-19 response and long-term recovery plans. The Elders welcome initiatives such as this COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund and the efforts of governments and the private sector to help the 5.1 billion people who lack meaningful access to justice.”

The nearly 500 organizations who have participated in the Legal Empowerment Network’s sprint challenge and other COVID-19 activities will be eligible for the initial round of funding. If more funds are available in the future, we hope to open up the call to the wider community of grassroots justice organizations.

We understand that the needs of our Network members are many. We hope that the COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund, and our initiatives to come, will help the legal empowerment movement as a whole to build a more just world in the aftermath of the pandemic.

For more information about the COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund or to make a donation, visit the fund’s website. If you would like to make a major gift or to come on board as a funding partner, please contact


Photo credit: Omari Hamisi/Nubian Rights Forum

July 13, 2020 | Namati

Region: > Global