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What we accomplished in 2023

Last week, my family celebrated the end of Lunar New Year festivities. As we look forward to another year, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate all that we accomplished in the prior one.

2023 was a time of growth and change. Our network welcomed a record number of new members – more than two thousand! We also changed our name to the Grassroots Justice Network, in recognition of our shared quest for justice and the frontline defenders who lead the way. Our new logo captures the diversity and unity of our global community – although nothing speaks more strongly to that than the collaborations and shared journeys undertaken by our members throughout the year.

By pooling our knowledge and resources, we made each other stronger, more effective, and more resilient. This past year, we shook things up a bit, experimenting with creative ways of communicating and connecting. We created virtual and hybrid learning opportunities for members, taking care to accommodate those with limited or unreliable internet access. Our experiments ranged from foundational online courses like “Legal Empowerment 101: Combining the Power of Law with the Power of People” and “How to Develop a Community Paralegal Program”, to deep dives into hot topics like building community power and critical consciousness (involving lively multilingual Whatsapp debates) and digital fundraising (pairing a self-paced course with personal coaching).

Members also traveled across the planet to connect with each other at immersive learning experiences and strategic planning moments. In Uganda, we explored the linkages between gender justice and legal empowerment; in the United States, we retreated to a mountaintop to examine the role of legal empowerment in advancing community-centered justice; in Nigeria, we compared approaches to combining law and organizing under the shade of trees; in Indonesia, we learned how to support communities in responding to carbon rights projects; in Kenya, we compared notes on using participatory action research to generate insights into legal empowerment work. Members also came together in Argentina, the Philippines, and Kenya to develop multi-year collective agendas for regional learning and advocacy.

Network members at the carbon rights training in Indonesia.

All told, more than a thousand people from over 80 countries engaged in online or in-person learning activities through the Grassroots Justice Network last year, returning home to share lessons learned with their wider organizations and communities.

As strong as our learning community is, our collective voice is even stronger. In 2023 alone, we were able to materially influence key global processes and documents, including the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the Open Government Partnership’s 5-year strategy, climate negotiations during COP28, and the official draft of a regional binding treaty on access to justice in Latin America. In each of these spaces, our network members served as champions for the needs and demands of communities. We ensured that those in power acknowledged and endorsed people’s right to know, use, and shape the law, so they can actively participate in governance and decision-making wherever it affects their lives.

I’m honored to be a part of the Grassroots Justice Network. Standing up for the rights of communities takes courage, but we support each other through tough times, and take joy in each other’s wins. Last year, we came together to advocate for the release of a Network member who has been wrongly imprisoned because of his justice work – an ongoing struggle. When justice defenders elsewhere were acquitted of similarly false charges, we cheered. In response to incidents like this, we hosted a series of roundtables addressing repression and closing civic spaces, in which members shared tested techniques for keeping ourselves and our communities safe. We hope to build on these conversations in the months to come.

Thank you all for being a part of the Grassroots Justice Network’s story. I look forward to a 2024 in which we can secure the safety and success of grassroots justice defenders around the world, and win justice for the communities they serve.

Network members at the Gender Justice convening in Uganda.


March 5, 2024 | Abigail Moy