Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hot off the Press: New Book on Legal Empowerment by IDLO

The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) has produced a new book on Legal Empowerment, which is edited by my colleague Stephen Golub, consists of 15 essays by practitioners and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I have not had a chance to read it yet, but hope to summarize and review the book soon. The book, Legal Empowerment; Practitioners' Perspectives can be accessed on IDLO's website here, for free (Thanks, IDLO!). 

Official Announcement follows:

04/03/2010 - SWITZERLAND

At a launch event in Geneva, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) released a new book examining issues in the emerging development field of legal empowerment. Legal Empowerment: Practitioners' Perspectives, edited by Stephen Golub, contributes empirical knowledge to the debate on how disadvantaged populations will best secure their economic and social rights. It is the second publication in an IDLO book series entitled Lessons Learned: Narrative Accounts of Legal Reform in Developing and Transition Countries."This book offers diverse, practical perspectives on legal empowerment strategies, activities and research in order to deepen the knowledge base in the field," said Thomas McInerney, IDLO’s Director of Research, Policy & Strategic Initiatives. "By bridging the knowledge gap between development practitioners and scholars, we can foster productive discourse and maximize the potential for law to improve the lives of the poor and disadvantaged populations whom IDLO and other development organizations support."

The concept of legal empowerment has emerged as an important component of the international development agenda. IDLO commissioned a number of qualitative and quantitative articles on approaches to integrating justice and development as part of its multifaceted legal empowerment program, which includes capacity building, networking, research and policymaking.
In addition to a consideration of the different definitions of legal empowerment, a number of common themes emerge from the authors:
  • Beyond legal sectors -- Legal empowerment for the poor reaches beyond a traditional view of the legal and justice sector to include the impact on health, education, irrigation, forestry, governance and other services and projects.
  • Beyond livelihoods -- Economic and social livelihoods involve a broad array of concerns, including public health, social accountability, children, identity papers and natural resource investment issues.
  • Paralegals -- Alternative and complementary legal services play an important role in the provision of effective legal assistance on behalf of the poor.
  • Civil society -- NGOs, grassroots groups and other civil society organizations are often more effective than governments in the advocacy and delivery of meaningful legal empowerment activities.
  • A two-way street -- Legal empowerment is both a bottom-up and top-down exercise involving grassroots activism and legal implementation, as well as legal reform and government action, in a fluid interaction.
  • Further research -- Additional applied research on the impact and lessons of legal empowerment activities is needed to guide NGOs, governments, development agencies and policymakers.

The launch in Geneva was organized in cooperation with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

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