Debating the Value and Impact of Strategic Litigation
Currently burgeoning in many parts of the Global South, strategic litigation remains surprisingly unexamined as a tool of social change. At a recent panel discussion, three experts engaged litigators, practitioners, funders, and others interested in the debate.
A positive judgment can expedite the advancement of rights in ways that other forms of advocacy cannot. The landmark Brown v. the Board of Education decision (1954) precipitated the rapid, nationwide desegregation of American schools, reversing an inherent inequality that had persisted for hundreds of years.
In South Africa, successful strategic litigation has saved the lives of millions of society’s most marginalized people through access to antiretroviral drugs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. But court-centered intervention can also divide communities, enshrine retrograde jurisprudence and precedents, and even provoke backlash against social movements and the principles and rights they are seeking to advance.