The Open Society Legal Empowerment Shared Framework hosted a webinar on leveraging funding for legal empowerment work on March 30th. Stacey Cram (Namati), Debbie Budlender (consultant South Africa), and Neetu Pokharel (Open Society Foundations Nepal) presented their findings and experiences. Lorenzo Wakefield from the Open Society Foundation South Africa @lorenzowakefield moderated the webinar.
The video recording is available [here] (Box) (click to view).
###Highlights: Debbie Budlender presented her findings from research on funding models to sustain the Community Advice Offices (CAOs) South Africa. This covered the current funding model of the CAOs, funding approaches, and lessons for designing a basket fund. Some of the advantages of creating a basket fund included: achieving cost effectiveness because of economies of scale, and easier control of “double dipping”. The disadvantages of this included that the contribution of individual donors would be less visible, that it might restrict opportunities for CAOs who are rejected by the fund, and the government participation could introduce political restrictions on the work.
Stacey Cram from Namati @staceycram started with an overview of the global landscape of funding for legal empowerment organizations and the need to weave together funding from many different sources to sustain an upscale the work. Stacey presented global lessons learned in funding community legal empowerment programmes:
- The first example was from the health sector in Mozambique of how outside donors have worked with the government to fund legal empowerment related to the right to health. In a context where the legal aid budget was very small, the program made the case for the importance of legal empowerment to ensure health outcomes and was able to leverage substantial funding from the more well-funded health sector to expand paralegal work in the sector. This also helped secure modest funding from the local government for specific projects. The government is now committed to scale up paralegal work across the country. It is estimated that it would take less than 1% of the annual health sector budget to have paralegals focused on health serving the entire country.
- Another example was from Sierra Leone (environmental sector) of how the private sector can help fund legal empowerment efforts. In Sierra Leone, where land grabbing is a huge problem, paralegals have been able to make a big impact in negotiating land deals with companies and ensure that communities are consulted and involved in the process. They have helped organize land owners into associations who can negotiate with companies on things that affect the communities and draft lease agreements that include funds going to paralegal work and profit going back to communities to fund development work. This CSR work is becoming institutionalized with the new Land Policy that was adopted last week and requires mining and agricultural companies to contribute to a fund that will pay for legal aid to communities affected. There is, however, still a huge funding gap to implement this law.
- Final examples were of social enterprises, and innovative way of funding and sustaining legal empowerment work. Orange Farm in South Africa has attached a recycling business to their office and use the profits from this business to fund their paralegal work. In Indonesia a coffee farm is selling coffee to pay for the paralegal work. These are small-scale but interesting examples of social enterprises contributing to the sustainability of paralegal work. Namati is also looking at micro-payments and other examples where individuals, who receive legal help, commit to helping others in the community.
Neetu Pokharel @Neetu from the Open Society Foundation in Nepal shared experiences and challenges of leveraging donor support for legal empowerment in Nepal. Challenges include that most of the funding goes directly to the government (supply-side) with very little investment in legal empowerment and community-based justice services. The government is heavily reliant on foreign funding for free legal aid services. It has not allocated budget and does not have a long term strategy for how to increase the budget, and how to leverage donor funding. At the same time, the SDGs have created an opportunity for donors to create a basket fund for Goal 16. Also, with a future legal aid policy, there is an opportunity to create a basket fund for free legal aid services through policy reform. The SDG’s also provide a platform for the government and civil society to leverage funding from the private sector.