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The Politics of Legal Empowerment: Legal Mobilisation Strategies and Implications for Development

Legal empowerment occurs when poor or marginalised people use the law, legal systems and justice mechanisms to improve or transform their social, political or economic situations. The concept of legal empowerment emerged within the development community in the early 2000s from a critique of the ‘rule of law orthodoxy’ and its perceived top-down technical assistance approach to justice sector reform. By contrast, legal empowerment approaches are explicitly interested in the agency and priorities of marginalised people, and understanding how they can use the law to advance their interests.

To date, understanding of legal empowerment has remained confined to a relatively small group of legal experts and within a narrow silo of justice support as part of international assistance efforts. But, as this wider legal activism continues in countries around the world, its relevance to development outcomes is becoming much clearer; this includes use of the law and justice mechanisms to expand access to public goods and services or to reduce marginalisation and inequality. This report outlines recent evidence on legal empowerment and highlights political economy perspectives on what it will take to realise greater empowerment for those who need it most.

Uploaded on: Apr 27, 2017
Year Published: 2014

Resource Tags

Resource Type: Practitioner Resources Issues: Community Paralegals, Criminal Justice, Generalist Legal Services, Governance, Accountability & Transparency, Legal Aid & Public Interest Law Tool Type: Reports / Research Method: Navigating Administrative Processes, Research Languages: English Regions: > Global