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Civil Society and the Problem of Path Dependence: Why Legal Empowerment Constrains Corruption Yet Still Faces Severe Funding Constraints

By: Stephen Golub

In 2019, Stephen Golub received a research grant from the Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law (KPSRL) unit, a Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs-funded policy institute. Through this grant, he conducted a literature review and related research on whether and how legal empowerment (basically, helping people to know, use and shape the law) constrains corruption. (Golub 2020). The results of that review were highly favorable in terms of ascertaining that legal empowerment indeed helps constrain many manifestations of corruption in many countries.

Those results complement findings by a number of previous inquiries into legal empowerment’s effectiveness, including three papers (Golub, 2019) Stephen Golub prepared last year for the Task Force on Justice. They address civil society’s contributions to justice, the work of paralegals and how grassroots actions fuel legal and policy reform. Though those papers do not use the term, legal empowerment runs through many of the examples and much of the analysis there.

In view of that favorable track record and in appreciation of the KPSRL grant’s flexibility, Stephen Golub also decided to explore two additional issues: 1) The very problematic track record of donor attempts to improve governance and tackle corruption via focusing on support for state institutions. 2) Why, as documented by Namati and its Legal Empowerment Network, do so many legal empowerment NGOs struggle to maintain funding?

This paper summarizes key aspects of both discussions, which are probed in greater depth in the 2020 KPSRL study.

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Uploaded on: Jun 09, 2020
Year Published: 2020
Author: Steve Golub
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