Closing the justice gap – Southeast Asia legal-empowerment knowledge hub
In countries across Southeast Asia, poor and marginalized populations face a series of justice gaps due to poor awareness of their rights as well as barriers to accessing the complex, formalistic, slow, and expensive legal mechanisms to enforce those rights. Women, peasant and fisherfolk communities, the urban poor, indigenous peoples, and persons living with HIV-AIDS are among the affected groups who experience additional obstacles to civic engagement and participation in reforms. To confront these justice gaps, the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), a coalition of over 20 legal-empowerment organizations in the Philippines, has pursued an approach called “developmental law”. Developmental law seeks to empower poor and marginalized populations, while supporting efforts to bring about systemic justice reforms.
Through this project, ALG will seek to study the impact of developmental law approaches and generate evidence on comparative experiences in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Research will examine how three approaches – use of paralegals, strategic litigation, and support in policy reform processes – have contributed to empowering poor and marginalized communities to claim their rights as well as strengthening their participation and collective action, with an emphasis on environmental and gender justice. The country-focused and comparative research will develop an important body of evidence on what works, and recommendations to improve the effectiveness of civil society organizations in the region to provide legal-empowerment support on pressing justice challenges. The project will provide a regional hub for Southeast Asia, with partner organization Namati acting as a global knowledge-translation hub.
This project was selected for funding under a competitive call for proposals entitled “Closing the justice gap - a legal empowerment research and learning agenda”. The resulting cohort of projects will cover 12 country case studies in West Africa, East and Southern Africa, and Southeast Asia, and include a regional hub for each of those sub-regions.