I am pleased to share a new report that reflects on the progress of Namati, our partners, and the Global Legal Empowerment Network.
These are dark days if you care about justice.
Power and wealth are extremely concentrated. The French economist Thomas Piketty found that on some dimensions our current era is the most unequal on record. And there are more slaves today—about 30 million people—than at any other time in human history.
Authoritarianism and nativism have gained ground. We are seeing in many places an assault on basic liberties that previous generations shed blood to establish. And we are speeding towards global environmental collapse—in some cities and towns, it hurts to breathe.
These realities can be overwhelming. Some days I feel overwhelmed myself. But the legal empowerment movement offers something rare and beautiful: a way forward. A strategy for pursuing justice that is working. You’ll see our movement working in these pages.
You’ll read about U Win Naing Htay, a paralegal in Myanmar who helped his community recover hundreds of acres of farmland that the dictatorship stole 40 years ago. Dispossessed families, who had fled to search for work, are starting to come home. U Win Naing Htay is part of a team of paralegals pursuing similar cases in seven states and regions across the country. Drawing on what we’ve learned collectively from that whole body of work, we managed in 2018 to make a harmful new national land law significantly less bad.
You’ll read about Samson, who was born and raised in Kenya but denied an ID card because of his presumed ethnicity. A paralegal helped Samson secure an ID in six weeks, which meant his daughter, who’d been driven from school, could start studying again. Paralegals and communities across Kenya are using data from thousands of cases like Samson’s to prove that Kenya’s discriminatory system for administering IDs is unconstitutional.
This process of legal empowerment is not easy. We encounter corruption and steep power imbalances every day. Many paralegals in our community face threats of retaliation.
But despite these challenges, we are seeing real progress against injustice in every country where we work. And we have a growing body of evidence now—summarized in a new book and a new policy brief we’ve just published—showing how legal empowerment can expand freedom, improve wellbeing, and reduce environmental harm.
The Global Legal Empowerment Network is the strongest it’s been. Our members, spanning over 160 countries, are committed to bringing justice everywhere. We are campaigning together for the financing and protection that will allow us to do so.
I am grateful to be on this journey with all of you.
With love and respect,
Vivek Maru CEO, Namati
PS: For access to the low-resolution version of the annual report, please click here.