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Vivek Maru

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Washington, DC

Follow Vivek on Twitter here.

Vivek believes we can advance social and environmental justice by deepening democracy.

Vivek started Namati in 2011. Since then, Namati and its partners have supported cadres of grassroots legal advocates—sometimes known as barefoot lawyers or community paralegals—in ten countries. These advocates work with their communities to protect common lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to healthcare and citizenship.

In all ten countries, their grassroots work has led to improvements to entire systems: a new anti-bribery policy for the health sector in Mozambique, for example, improved sand-mining regulations in India, and greater protection for women’s rights in Sierra Leonean land law.

Globally, Namati convenes the Legal Empowerment Network, more than 2,000 groups from over 160 countries who are learning from one another and collaborating on common challenges. This community successfully advocated for the inclusion of access to justice in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Vivek is co-author of Community Paralegals and the Pursuit of Justice (Cambridge University Press). His TED talk, “How to Put the Power of Law in People’s Hands,” has been viewed over a million times.

Vivek is on the road a lot, but he has a home and family in Washington, DC. He tries to spend time in a forest or other natural place every week, wherever he is.

Vivek studies capoeira with Dale Marcelin at Universal Capoeira Angola Center.

A few other bits about Vivek:

RECOGNITION

Vivek received the Pioneer Award from the North American South Asian Bar Association in 2008. He was named an Ashoka Fellow in 2014 and a “legal rebel” by the American Bar Association in 2015.  He, Namati, and the Legal Empowerment Network received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2016. In 2017, the Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum named Vivek and Sonkita Conteh, director of Namati Sierra Leone, two of its Social Entrepreneurs of the Year.

WORK LIFE BEFORE NAMATI

From 2003 to 2007, Vivek co-founded and co-directed the Sierra Leonean organization Timap for Justice, which has been recognized by the International Crisis Group, Transparency International, and President Jimmy Carter for advancing justice in the context of a weak state and a plural legal system.

From 2008 to 2011, he served as senior counsel in the Justice Reform Group of the World Bank. His work focused on rule of law reform and governance, primarily in West Africa and South Asia.

In 1997-1998 he lived in a hut of dung and sticks in a village in Kutch, his native place, working on rainwater conservation and girls’ education with two grassroots development organizations—Sahjeevan and Kutch Mahila Vikas Sanghathan.

LEARNING, WRITING, TEACHING, SUPPORTING

Vivek graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, and Yale Law School. His undergraduate thesis was called Mohandas, Martin, and Malcolm on Violence, Culture, and Meaning.

Vivek writes regularly—see links to publications below—and co-teaches the Legal Empowerment Leadership Course, which is co-hosted by Central European University and the Bernstein Center for Human Rights at New York University School of Law.

Vivek serves on the board of trustees of the global advocacy organization Avaaz, the advisory boards of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the evaluation firm ID Insight, and the board of the Constitutional Accountability Center. He was an affiliate expert with the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment and is a member of the global Task Force on Justice.

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

BOOK

ESSAYS AND OP-EDS

JOURNAL ARTICLES

BOOK CHAPTERS/POLICY DOCUMENTS/PRACTITIONER GUIDES

 

PUBLIC TALKS

 

IN THE MEDIA