International Development Law Organization

Legal Empowerment

Rights mean little if those entitled to them are not aware they exist. Due process is of doubtful value when you are illiterate, or unable to understand the proceedings. Courts are next to worthless for those who cannot afford the bus fare to reach them. Nor should justice be about courts alone. For all these reasons, legal empowerment is crucial. Part of IDLO's bottom-up (or demand side) approach, it involves equipping people with the knowledge, confidence and skills to realize their rights. Even as we work to improve the functioning of justice systems, we strengthen citizens' capacity to press for justice from below.

The rule of law only exists to the extent that it works for all.

Call for sub-project concept notes (Community Justice Programme in Uganda)

IDLO is rolling out a program that aims to secure accessible, quality and sustainable justice services for citizens - particularly those living in rural, poor and other disadvantaged communities. The Community Justice Programme (CJP) supports both state and non-state legal aid, legal empowerment and other justice delivery interventions.

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Key Initiatives

  • Like other countries on the African continent, the Ugandan justice sector faces many challenges. Citizens demonstrate a widespread distrust towards formal justice institutions, which are perceived as corrupt, removed from the communities, expensive and slow to resolve disputes. This lack of confidence in the formal system leads people to resort to other means to seek recourse, and may also increase the likelihood of violence and further corruption.
  • In recent years, Jordan has taken steps and demonstrated political will to reform the justice sector and promote mediation and alternative dispute resolution as means not only to reduce court congestion and shorten the litigation process, but also to guarantee transparent and fair trials. Despite the use of mediation for several years, interest in mediation faded, and it is no longer perceived as a reliable mechanism for dispute resolution. There is therefore a strong need to re-establish mediation as an effective dispute resolution mechanism in the country.
  • Since the revolution in 2011, Tunisia has experienced a period of significant political transition and change culminating in the adoption of a new constitution in 2014, which called for justice reform and protection of women’s rights. However, the practical application of the framework for legal assistance in Tunisia demonstrates the insufficiency of existing relevant mechanisms. Therefore, there is the strong need to empower women to access justice and claim their rights.
  • For over 15 years, IDLO has been assisting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan develop accessible, accountable, effective and efficient justice sector institutions. While significant progress has been made, many challenges remain, frequently perceived to be rooted in the ongoing conflict, the impact of insecurity and the public’s fear for their safety. There is a strong need to address the concerns and goals of the justice sector and find innovative solutions and methods to strengthen its resilience.
  • Indonesia's Attorney-General’s Office (AGO) has identified differences between its methods for measuring the budget it needs to handle cases and the methods used by other bodies, including the Ministry of Finance, the National Planning and Development Agency and the State Audit Board. If the AGO's initial budget needs are not assessed correctly, this could potentially lead to a misjudgment of its budget allocation, its burn rate and expenditure, and its budget performance.
  • In Indonesia, with its civil law system, many scholars believe that lecturers do not have any obligation to use case law or jurisprudence, including among judges. This causes stagnant development of the law both in practice and theory. Therefore, integrating case law into education will not only be beneficial to both student and lecturer, but also for the judges so they can employ better consideration when making their decisions or verdicts.
  • Alternative dispute resolution, and in particular mediation, is finally gaining momentum in Tajikistan. Previous attempt to introduce law on mediation in Tajikistan have not been successful and consequently there is currently no formal legal framework for mediation. In the first phase of the project, the International Development Law Organization worked to promote commercial mediation and build momentum for its expansion. However, there is still the need to provide assistance to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mediation Center and improve its effectiveness.
  • As a result of the combined military offensive of the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia with international support, the Al Shabaab extremist group has been significantly degraded and forced into retreat. Al Shabaab’s emergence, and support, particularly among marginalized communities, was and is still to a large extent fueled by both inter and intra-clan conflicts and lack of justice.
  • In April 2018, the Republic of Armenia adopted a new version of the Civil Procedure Code with the aim to expedite cases and increase the efficiency of civil courts. As in most transition countries, implementation of the law by courts and officials is weak and uneven. The judiciary needs to become familiarized with the new Civil Procedure Code and its application within a limited timeframe. Hence, it is critical that judges have a firm grasp of the newly adopted rules, especially related to commercial disputes.
  • Strengthening prevention and accountability for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through the rule of law and access to justice has been a priority for the Government of Myanmar since 2011, when it embarked on an unprecedented transition towards democracy. SGBV cases are rarely reported and, when they are, the justice sector fails to provide adequate remedies. Therefore, there is a widely recognized need to increase prevention of and accountability for SGBV.
  • In recent years Jordan has taken significant steps toward promoting economic development, including through strengthening rule of law. Judicial specialization in relevant areas, while promoting an enabling environment for capacity development within the relevant judicial institutions is crucial to maximize the impact of those efforts and ensure sustainability. At the same time, attention has been given to encouraging entrepreneurship, in particular women entrepreneurs, as a means to achieve economic growth.
  • Legal reform and institutional capacity building have been priorities for the Government of Mongolia since 2005, when a specific Government Agency for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection was established. However, the Government Agency for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection still has institutional weaknesses and has not always been able to effectively implement changes of the legal framework. ​
  • Somalia constitutes a country of origin, destination, transit, and return for large movements of people across the Horn of Africa. Movement is driven by the intersecting challenges of protracted and persistent conflict, failing systems of governance, and limited employment and livelihood opportunities. More than 2.1 million Somalis live in protracted displacement, with 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an additional 1 million Somalis hosted as refugees in countries in the immediate region.
  • In 2014, the Rule of Law Centres Initiative was launched to increase trust and cooperation between justice providers and the communities they serve. With project offices in Mandalay, Yangon, Myitkyina and Taunggyi, the Rule of Law Centres trained lawyers, law teachers, government officials and civil society representatives on key rule of law and human rights issues and raised awareness of rule of law in communities across the country.
  • While the justice sector in Afghanistan has progressed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, legal awareness and access to justice throughout the country are still lagging behind. A 2016 World Justice Project report found that only 23 per cent of Afghan citizens used the formal justice system to settle disputes, and less than half reported to have trust in the state courts. As a result, and combined with the pressure of social norms, potential justice users, particularly women, are deterred from using the formal system and are often unable to obtain fair remedies for grievances
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