“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
These words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ring true today. Especially when justice defenders themselves are at risk.
Today, on MLK Day, Namati and the Justice For All campaign are launching a policy brief that offers recommendations on how governments, donors, and multilateral institutions can finance and protect grassroots justice defenders, and why these steps are crucial to achieving the promise of “justice for all” in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Grassroots justice defenders do the work of legal empowerment. They support vulnerable groups to contend with complex, broken, or corrupt legal systems, and apply skills like negotiation, organizing, and advocacy to help people overcome injustice.
Despite mounting need, their efforts are under-resourced and often under attack.
Aid funding towards justice has decreased by 40% in 4 years; the funding that does exist tends to go to top-down approaches rather than bottom-up.
Meanwhile, civil society space is shrinking. In 2018, 321 defenders in 27 countries were targeted and killed for their work—the highest number on record. Two-thirds of Global Legal Empowerment Network members report that they were threatened for carrying out frontline justice work.
This new policy brief is an essential tool for anyone who wants to change that.
Written in close consultation with partners and Network members, our community argues that without investing in legal empowerment and securing the safety of its champions, “justice for all” will remain empty rhetoric, leaving the majority of the globe without access to justice.
Recommendations to address financing challenges include:
- ensuring investments in legal empowerment don’t curtail the independence of justice defenders;
- tapping into sector-specific sources of funding in areas like land, environment, and health.
Recommendations to address protection challenges include:
- Protecting grassroots justice defenders from intimidation, harassment, and murder;
- prohibiting lawsuits whose main purpose is to harass justice defenders.
This Wednesday, January 23rd, we are hosting a webinar to discuss how this policy brief can serve as a template to drive advocacy around the SDGs in our respective countries and as part of a global movement for justice. We hope you will join us.
Governments must ensure that justice flows not only to the strongest, richest, or most powerful, but to everyone. Justice defenders help make that happen. It’s high time world leaders recognize that with both words and action.