The linkages between good governance, rule of law and economic growth, once more fully understood, have the potential to unshackle economies and decrease poverty throughout the developing world. Currently, however, most initiatives are heavy in rhetoric and light on directly addressing the legal structures and policies that affect the poor. Until developing countries can enable their vast populations of poor citizens to actively participate in their economies, their growth and the creation of egalitarian societies will be severely hampered. Analyzing and building on the final report of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor and other previous work, this article outlines a functional approach to addressing the most critical needs of the poor, including but not limited to issues that directly affect livelihoods and economic opportunity. It accordingly aims to help the poor gain a foothold in effecting their own development and making legal empowerment a reality. By introducing important lessons in ommunity-based justice from an access to justice program in Bolivia, the article provides tangible examples that might help shape legal empowerment initiatives to best address the needs of the poor.
Mystery of Legal Empowerment Mennen (2010).pdf 1.78 MB (409)