I sensed a profound longing at Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi recently, where some of the largest demonstrations in India’s contemporary history took place.
The protesters in Delhi and around the country pressed for a concrete political change—a new bill, a new institution to punish corruption—and in principle they won. Parliament passed a resolution accepting the protesters’ demands, and a joint committee is now drafting a bill accordingly.
But the demonstrations were also motivated by a deeper aspiration, one that is even more difficult to achieve: that the day-to-day workings of government can somehow become more accountable, more tied to the citizens whom government is meant to serve.
The demonstrations were motivated by a deeper aspiration: that the day-to-day workings of government can somehow become more tied to the citizens whom government is meant to serve.
Two of the great international movements since World War II have arrived at exactly this challenge. The movement for human rights has led nearly all nations to endorse human rights norms at least in name. Organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and countless national counterparts can therefore use documentation and public advocacy to shame governments for egregious violations. But shaming alone cannot address every breach of basic rights. A juvenile is wrongfully detained; an agricultural loan is held up for a bribe; a textile factory poisons a river. By what consistent, systematic means can communities protect their rights in daily life?
The parallel and hitherto largely disconnected movement for development finds itself confronting the same questions. Governments and agencies have sought to alleviate poverty by fostering economic growth and by improving essential services like health, water, and education. But increasingly those pursuing development recognize that success depends on communities’ ability to participate in and hold accountable public institutions. Governments and donors can build clinics and schools, for example, but what happens if the drugs and books aren’t delivered? Or if the nurses and teachers don’t show up to work?
The answers to these questions do not lie in elections or representative democracy alone. They require a thicker, ongoing relationship between citizen and state.
The answers to these questions do not lie in elections or representative democracy alone. They require a thicker, ongoing relationship between citizen and state. You might call it a question of “legal empowerment”: of ensuring that laws and policies do not reside only in books or courtrooms, that instead they are on the street, in the factory, on the farm, in the home, within the grasp of every person.
Legal empowerment matters to all of us. But in contrast to, say, public health, international efforts to address legal empowerment are weak. Admittedly, laws and institutions vary more than bodies and diseases do. While many public health activists call for a single standard of care to be applied across the globe, the precise shape of the citizen-state relationship will always depend on the specifics of history, culture, and politics.
In spite of this complexity—indeed because of this complexity—we need a stronger international movement for legal empowerment. We should prioritize innovation and research, to help us translate ideals into practice. The atmosphere at Ramlila Grounds reminded me of the Obama campaign in 2008: the mixing of classes, the numbers of people engaging in public life for the first time, a spirit of hope rather than anger. But even fervent protesters acknowledged to me that the new lokpal they were pushing for—a national ombudsman office–would face some of the same implementation challenges that have dogged India’s existing institutions for accountability. How should the lokpal relate to those institutions, including administrative law and the courts? How will its reach be extended to all citizens? Who will check the lokpal itself? We should address these questions by studying the experience of ombudsman offices across countries, and by experimentation going forward.
The civil legal aid tradition is about bolstering citizens’ capacity to seek redress. Here too, we need more innovation.
If the ombudsman tradition is about expanding government’s capacity to provide redress, the civil legal aid tradition is about bolstering citizens’ capacity to seek redress. Here too, we need more innovation. I co-directed a grassroots justice program in Sierra Leone for four years, where exploitation and arbitrariness had contributed to an 11-year civil war. A conventional legal aid model would have been unworkable. There were 100 lawyers in the country when I moved there, and more than 90 of those were in the capital Freetown. Instead we trained a frontline of community paralegals in basic law and in tools like mediation, advocacy, education, and organizing.
A World Bank assessment found that paralegals often manage to squeeze justice out of a broken system: stop a school master from beating children; negotiate child support payments from a derelict father; persuade the water authority to repair a well. In exceptionally intractable cases, as when a mining company in the southern province damaged six villages’ land and abandoned the region without paying compensation, a tiny corps of lawyers can resort to litigation and higher-level advocacy to obtain a remedy.
Again, there is a lot left to learn: How can we achieve scale and consistency in primary justice services? Is it possible for public legal aid boards to recognize and fund paralegals without compromising paralegals’ independence?
To support such innovation, and to expand investment in this field, the international community should establish a global fund for legal empowerment.
To support such innovation, and to expand investment in this field, the international community should establish a global fund for legal empowerment. Like health or the environment, legal empowerment is a public good. Legal empowerment renders governments more accountable to their citizens, and it makes development more equitable. Unlike public health, there is a natural disincentive for states to finance legal empowerment, because legal empowerment efforts constrain state power—this is all the more reason for a global financing mechanism.
Social movements in India, the Middle East, and elsewhere are demanding institutions that give greater space for citizen participation and citizen oversight. The challenge of responding to those movements does not belong exclusively to a handful of governments. It belongs to all of us.
Last updated January 30, 2013.
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Last updated: November 29, 2022
Welcome to the namati.org website (the “Site”) and the Legal Empowerment Network Forum (the “Forum”) operated by Namati, Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Namati”, “we”, “us” or “our”). We share your concern about the protection of your personal information online.
This Policy describes our privacy practices and sets out your obligations and ours with respect to your use of the Site and the Forum. This Policy applies only to the Site and the Forum and does not necessarily apply to our offline collection of information.
Namati may collect and retain two types of information about Site and Forum visitors: (i) personal information that individual visitors voluntarily provide when interacting on the Site or Forum or on certain other occasions (such as via forms or in emails); and (ii) tracking data, which is data that is automatically collected from every Site and Forum visitor as they use and browse the site.
We may, from time to time, store and archive the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum. The information that we gather may include your name, title, and address, telephone number, email address, credit card number or other elements of personal information. In addition, if you contact us, we may keep a record of your correspondence, including any information contained therein.
You may decline to provide any personal information, but please realize that you thereby may be unable to register or to participate in activities or services offered on the Site and/or Forum.
In addition to the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum, we also may collect and store data from and about you gathered in the course of your use of the Site and Forum. We call this “tracking data.”
Such tracking data may include, but is not limited to, information regarding the number and frequency of visits to the Site and Forum, the websites that you access before and after you visit the Site and Forum, the software and operating system used to access the Site and Forum, and your IP address and Internet service provider.
Our use of your Information involves various forms of communication with you, including:
We will not disclose any personal information to third parties, except:
Information provided to third parties is limited to the information needed to perform their functions. We seek to limit third-party use of information and our service providers have entered into contracts with us that restrict what they can do with your personal information. If you would like specific information about our service providers who have received your information, please contact us at email@example.com and we will provide that information to you.
We retain the right to transfer or assign all information pursuant to a merger, purchase or other transaction relating to Namati or our assets.
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Personal information you submit via your member account, other than information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site as described below, is deleted from Namati’s records following the deletion of your account. However, such information may continue to be retained by third-party service providers to which it has been disclosed for one of the reasons listed above. Any financial records will be kept in accordance with Namati’s data retention policy.
Your Information is stored on Digital Ocean servers in New York, USA, and WPengine servers located in Texas, USA. When you provide personal information to us, we request your consent to transfer that personal information to the USA. The USA does not have an adequacy decision from the European Commission, which means that the Commission has not determined that the laws of the USA provide adequate protection for personal information. Although the laws of the USA do not provide legal protection that is equivalent to the EU GDPR, we safeguard your personal information by treating it in accordance with this Policy. We take appropriate steps to protect your privacy and implement reasonable security measures to protect your personal information in storage. We use secure transmission methods to collect personal data through our website. We also enter into contracts with our data processors that require them to treat personal information in a manner that is consistent with this Policy.
We have put in place appropriate security measures to prevent your personal data from being accidentally lost, used or accessed in an unauthorized way, altered or disclosed. In addition, we limit access to your personal data to those employees, agents, contractors and other third parties who have a business need to know. They will only process your personal data on our instructions and they are subject to a duty of confidentiality.
We have put in place procedures to deal with any suspected personal data breach and will notify you and any applicable regulator of a breach where we are legally required to do so.
You should be aware that any information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site, including but not limited to interactions on the Site and information posted to the Member Directory (via your profile), the Resource Library, and the Forum, may be read, collected or used by other visitors of the Site, who may not need to log in as a member to view the information. Namati is not responsible for the third-party use of any information provided in such manner. By participating in the use of the Site’s interactive features, you consent to Namati’s use or disclosure of any content that you submit. For more information on posting content, please see our Terms.
The Forum uses data about your posts and other activity to make automated decisions about whether your posts are spam.
The Forum may also use data about your posts and activity to award you badges and calculate a trust level for your account. Your trust level may affect how you can participate in the Forum, such as whether you can upload images, as well as give you access to moderation and management powers in the Forum. Your trust level, therefore, reflects Forum administrators’ confidence in you, and their willingness to delegate community management functions, like moderation.
From time to time, we may email users of the Site information regarding important developments affecting Namati. We may also email users on occasion regarding the Site. Such emails may be sent to users of the Site if they have given their consent previously or if they have requested information from us or acquired goods or services from us in the past and have not opted out of receiving marketing communications. You can ask us to stop sending you marketing messages at any time by (i) logging into the website and checking or unchecking relevant boxes to adjust your marketing preferences; or (ii) by following the opt-out links on any marketing message sent to you; or (iii) by contacting us at any time. You may choose to unsubscribe from future emails by using the unsubscribe link included in all mass email correspondence from Namati.
If a user elects to use our referral service to inform a friend about the Site and Forum, we request the name and email address of the friend. Namati will automatically send the friend a one-time email inviting the friend to visit the Site. Namati stores this information for the sole purpose of sending this one-time email, and, while a third-party mail service provider may retain the information in its database, no additional emails will be sent by Namati without further action by the friend.
Namati is concerned about the privacy protection of children who access the Internet and this website is not intended for children and we do not knowingly collect data relating to children. Accordingly, the Site and Forum are not intended for use by anyone under the age of 16, and we do not knowingly collect information from anyone under 16 years of age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
We reserve the right to disclose any information to comply with any law, regulation, decree, judgment, order, subpoena or any other governmental order (“Order”) without any obligation to contest or verify the accuracy of such Order.
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The section titles in this Policy are for convenience only and have no legal or contractual effect. The Site, the Learning Site, the Forum, and any third-party services they use, may be subject to additional terms and conditions regarding privacy and use of information. Your use of the Site and the Forum is subject to those terms and conditions, which are incorporated into this Policy by reference. In the event of an inconsistency between this Policy and any additional posted conditions, the provisions of the additional conditions shall control.
We may need to change the Policy from time to time in order to address new issues and to reflect changes on the Site or in the law. We reserve the right to revise or make any changes to the Policy, and your continued use of the Site subsequent to any changes to this Policy will mean that you agree to and accept such changes. You can tell if the Policy has been updated by checking the last revised date posted on the top of this page. Historic versions can be obtained by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also access, remove, update or correct your information, and raise any questions or concerns regarding the Site or the Policy, by emailing email@example.com, or mailing:
Namati Data Protection Officer
1616 P Street NW, Suite 101
Washington, DC 20036, USA
It is important that the personal data we hold about you is accurate and current. Please keep us informed if your personal data changes during your relationship with us.
You have the right to:
Request access to your personal data (commonly known as a “data subject access request”). This enables you to receive a copy of the personal data we hold about you and to check that we are lawfully processing it.
Request correction of the personal data that we hold about you. This enables you to have any incomplete or inaccurate data we hold about you corrected, though we may need to verify the accuracy of the new data you provide to us.
Request erasure of your personal data. This enables you to ask us to delete or remove personal data where there is no good reason for us continuing to process it. You also have the right to ask us to delete or remove your personal data where you have successfully exercised your right to object to processing (see below), where we may have processed your information unlawfully or where we are required to erase your personal data to comply with local law. Note, however, that we may not always be able to comply with your request of erasure for specific legal reasons which will be notified to you, if applicable, at the time of your request.
Object to processing of your personal data where we are relying on a legitimate interest (or those of a third party) and there is something about your particular situation which makes you want to object to processing on this ground as you feel it has an impact on your fundamental rights and freedoms. You also have the right to object where we are processing your personal data for direct marketing purposes. In some cases, we may demonstrate that we have compelling legitimate grounds to process your information which override your rights and freedoms.
Request restriction of processing of your personal data. This enables you to ask us to suspend the processing of your personal data in the following scenarios:
Request the transfer of your personal data to you or to a third party. We will provide to you, or a third party you have chosen, your personal data in a structured, commonly used, machine-readable format. Note that this right only applies to automated information which you initially provided consent for us to use or where we used the information to perform a contract with you.
Withdraw consent at any time where we are relying on consent to process your personal data. However, this will not affect the lawfulness of any processing carried out before you withdraw your consent. If you withdraw your consent, we may not be able to provide certain products or services to you. We will advise you if this is the case at the time you withdraw your consent.
You will not have to pay a fee to access your personal data (or to exercise any of the other rights). However, we may charge a reasonable fee if your request is clearly unfounded, repetitive or excessive. Alternatively, we could refuse to comply with your request in these circumstances.
We may need to request specific information from you to help us confirm your identity and ensure your right to access your personal data (or to exercise any of your other rights). This is a security measure to ensure that personal data is not disclosed to any person who has no right to receive it. We may also contact you to ask you for further information in relation to your request to speed up our response.
We try to respond to all legitimate requests within one month. Occasionally it could take us longer than a month if your request is particularly complex or you have made a number of requests. In this case, we will notify you and keep you updated.
If you live in an EEA Member State, all of which have adopted the EU GDPR and national , you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority about this policy and its application. The European Commission has a list of EU national data protection authorities here:
If you live in the United Kingdom, you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority, the ICO, about this policy and its application:
The Policy was updated in July 2022 to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations.