Skip to main content

The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor: One Big Step Forward and A Few Steps Back for Development Policy and Practice

  • Stephen Golub

The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor has made a considerable contribution to the international development community by focusing attention on concrete legal needs of impoverished populations. As such, it constitutes a fine start for international, regional and domestic efforts to pull together a legal empowerment agenda that will directly benefit such groups. Nevertheless, the Commission's report falls short in key respects. It displays an inordinate faith in employing rational persuasion to grapple with a widespread problem it highlights – how to get self-interested politicians and other elites to forfeit their own advantage for the well-being of society. It is similarly stumbles in addressing how to best implement ambitious legal reforms, so that they have actual impact and do not simply exist on paper. And it does not reconcile the Commission's fundamentally top-down approach with an area of development that is bottom-up in nature. Going forward, it is important to build on the Commission's good start, but depart from its false and even counterproductive steps; the international community should instead draw on successful country-specific legal empowerment experience from diverse contexts. This features increased investment in civil society efforts to make the rule of law a reality, since such initiatives have a better track record than government-centered programs that mainly rely on elite good will. It more specifically involves enhanced long-term funding for domestic and international NGO efforts, both in the form of legal services for the disadvantaged and by integrating such services into broader socioeconomic development programs. The international community should also support impact-oriented applied research and move toward establishing a Millennium Development Goal for legal empowerment

Hide All

* Lecturer in International Development and Law, Boalt Hall Law School, University of California at Berkeley and Adjunct Professor in Strengthening Legal Systems and Legal Empowerment, Central European University, Budapest.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Hague Journal on the Rule of Law
  • ISSN: 1876-4045
  • EISSN: 1876-4053
  • URL: /core/journals/hague-journal-on-the-rule-of-law
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed