Message from the CEO
“Not again.” On a clear-skied morning in September 2021, I sat on a bench among a hundred people who live in the shadow of Sierra Leone’s largest iron ore mine. We gathered in an open-air shelter, in the center of a cluster of identical homes that had been erected hastily for families who were forcibly displaced by the mine. The people living in this settlement, our hosts for the day, had lost their land entirely. Others present, who had traveled from nearby villages by foot and motorcycle, still possessed their land but could barely recognize it because of poisonous, orange-hued tailings flowing down openly from the mining site, or because of massive floods and mudslides the mine had caused.
These were fighters. Among us were the leaders of an ongoing lawsuit to address violations of the mine’s permit conditions. In 2019, they won a partial settlement requiring rehabilitation of damaged land. But their spirits that day were low. The mine had switched hands from one Chinese company to another; the new company was refusing to accept responsibility for its predecessor’s actions and, we’d found out only recently, had signed a new land lease with local chiefs, for 25,000 acres, at less than $1.50 per acre per year, without the consent of the people whose land it was. Not again, one farmer told me. We can’t let this happen again.
This is what it’s like standing up for justice in our era of gross inequality, climate emergency, and threats to democracy. You get knocked down, you climb to your feet, you get knocked down again.
In 2021, in the six countries where Namati and our close partners work on the ground, there was an attempted coup in one, the United States, and a successful coup in another, Myanmar. Threats to civic space and democratic norms are on the rise in all six, and in many other places as well.
Namati convenes the Legal Empowerment Network, with members in over 170 countries. One of our members, the Peruvian environmental justice group Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR), works with Indigenous leaders combating unlawful deforestation in the Amazon. Three of those leaders were murdered during a three-week period in 2021: Herasmo García Grau, Yenes Ríos Bonsano, and Estela Casanto Mauricio. As I write this, another network member, the Legal Development Network in the Ukraine, is working to provide emergency legal and humanitarian assistance to people fleeing bombs, while being bombed themselves.
Looking back at 2021 and ahead to the remainder of 2022, the question I’m asking myself is: how do we live in solidarity with people who are standing up for justice in the face of such grave risks?
You’ll read about some of our attempts to do so in these pages. You’ll read how a growing movement for citizenship equality in Kenya persuaded the Kenyan parliament to acknowledge, for the first time, the discriminatory character of its Jim Crow-style ID system. How, in Mozambique, the Namati team partnered with village health committees to persuade three provincial governments to adopt policies that would ensure that every health clinic has bare essentials that clinics in Mozambique have often lacked: running water, a working bathroom, and a private space to receive a diagnosis. How, after years of advocacy by our global community, we co-launched the world’s first Legal Empowerment Fund, with a goal of investing $100 million in grassroots justice efforts worldwide.
In Sierra Leone, the people I met that day in September are not giving up. They’re getting creative. They are using existing law to hold both the mining company and their own chiefs accountable. And many of them are finding time to take part in a nationwide movement to pass two new laws, which could transform land and environmental governance in the country and be a precedent for the world.
Those people know, and I know, that the strides we’ve made are baby steps, and that the path ahead is profoundly long and steep. But they keep climbing. Let’s climb with them.
With love and respect,
We advance social and environmental justice by building a movement of people who know, use, and shape the law.
Our Impact at a Glance
Throughout 2021, Namati and our partners in six countries supported affected communities to remedy injustices and bring about changes to entire systems.
PEOPLE SUPPORTED TO KNOW, USE, AND SHAPE THE LAW
PEOPLE WHO BENEFITTED DIRECTLY FROM REMEDIES SECURED
PEOPLE POSITIVELY AFFECTED BY CHANGES TO LAWS AND SYSTEMS
The Legal Empowerment Network, which Namati convenes, grew to 2,800+ groups from 170 countries. Together, we drove our movement for justice forward by fostering deep learning among members across borders, and by co-launching the Legal Empowerment Fund, with the goal of investing $100 million in grassroots justice efforts worldwide.
Take a Deeper Look
Namati, our members, our partners, and the communities we serve are working to achieve transformative impact in six countries and grow the Legal Empowerment Network into a powerful movement for justice. Learn about the progress we made in 2021 by exploring the sections below.
Thank you to our supporters for joining us in advancing social and environment justice across the globe.