The Global Legal Empowerment Initiative

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The UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor estimated in 2008 that four billion people live outside the protection of the law, leaving them vulnerable to a wide range of abuses.

Legal empowerment groups have pioneered practical methods for meeting this challenge. They have embraced a range of approaches: from improving grievance mechanisms to deal with breaches in public service delivery, to working with civil society groups to help people find practical solutions to their own problems, informed by knowledge of the law.

This briefing paper outlines the Open Society Justice Initiative's work on legal empowerment and its participation in the Global Legal Empowerment Initiative, a partnership that includes the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and Australia's AusAID, in collaboration with UNDP and the Justice for the Poor Program at the World Bank. The initiative seeks to strengthen legal empowerment approaches to justice and development through extensive empirical research, building a community of practice network, and helping to project civil society voices into the discourse shaping government and donor development policies.

The initiative’s efforts are guided by an International Advisory Council comprising Fazle Abed (chairman), Madeleine Albright, Helen Clark, Fernando Cardoso, Mo Ibrahim, Amartya Sen, James Wolfensohn, and George Soros.

For more information about a new global network of legal empowerment practitioners, please also visit