We live in challenging times. While the movement for legal empowerment is stronger than ever, so are the forces working to stymie access to justice across the globe. Today, we have a unique opportunity to change that, by making justice for all a central issue for world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly. We need your help to #TipTheScales.
Ten years ago, the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor released a landmark report finding that “at least four billion people are excluded from the rule of law.” The Commission, on which I was an Affiliate Expert, identified legal empowerment as an essential solution for closing the justice gap.
Over the last decade, and on every continent on the planet, community paralegals have put the power of law in people’s hands, turning legal empowerment into a global force.
In 2015, our movement succeeded in having justice included in the Sustainable Development Goals. This was a major shift in global thinking, with leaders from 193 countries committing to making “access to justice for all” a reality.
Yet, despite many promising victories, community paralegals and other grassroots justice defenders remain grossly underfunded and increasingly under attack.
People like Musa Usman Ndamba, a Global Legal Empowerment Network member and land rights activist from Cameroon. In May, Musa was sentenced to six months in prison based on claims of defamation from a wealthy businessman, which many in our community believe was retribution for Musa’s work exposing corrupt land deals. His imprisonment came after five years of judicial harassment, during which the court adjourned his hearings over 55 times.
Musa’s case is emblematic of how justice defenders are increasingly under threat of harassment, imprisonment, and violence.
Adding to these challenges is a lack of funding for the work of legal empowerment. In a recent survey of the Global Legal Empowerment Network, 67% of respondents noted that they’ll have to make cuts or will not be able to operate in the coming year due to funding concerns.
In 2015, when justice was included in the Sustainable Development Goals, not one country pledged a penny to finance access to justice. In fact, donor funding for justice has actually declined by 40% over the last four years.
As long as justice defenders are thwarted in this way, with threats increasing and funding decreasing, injustice will remain the norm for billions of people across the globe.
To overcome these odds, #JusticeForAll is a global campaign mobilizing to demand funding and protection for grassroots justice defenders. Sign the petition today and we’ll deliver our collective demands to world leaders at the UN General Assembly.
In recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, we are also launching10 Days of Local Action. From September 25 to October 6, grassroots campaign partners are organizing actions to advance financing and protection for grassroots justice defenders. Check out this Action Pack to see how you can join these efforts and organize an event in your community.
The people that make up our movement give me hope. Ten years ago, the Commission wrote, “Democracy and legal empowerment are kindred spirits.” I believe it. Our movement believes it. It’s time we made world leaders believe it too.
Vivek, Stacey, Coco, Abby, and the entire team supporting the Global Legal Empowerment Network