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The Impact of Legal Empowerment Activities on Agrarian Reform Implementation in the Philippines

By: Asian Development Bank (Golub/McQuay)

This paper presents the results of a study on the impact of legal empowerment activities on the implementation of agrarian reform in two provinces in southern Philippines. The study was undertaken as a supplement to the seven-country Legal Empowerment Study conducted under Asian Development Bank Regional Technical Assistance 5856.

Legal empowerment, or the use of law to increase disadvantaged populations’ control over their lives, differs from the more general notion of empowerment in that it involves the explicit or implicit use of the law (for example, through training, counseling, or litigation) or relates to public decision-making processes that have a specific legal dimension (for example, equipping citizens or communities with the skills and confidence to appear before an administrative tribunal or to inform local policy development.) It frequently combines such activities with initiatives that are not inherently law-oriented, such as community organizing or livelihood development. While they typically include education, most advanced legal empowerment initiatives aim to do more than simply teach people about law. They provide the disadvantaged with opportunities to apply their knowledge through actions intended to advance their legal rights, improve their quality of life, or increase their participation in public decision making.

The basic analytical strategy for this study was to compare areas in which nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were conducting legal empowerment strategies with comparable places where no such work was conducted. This paper reviews the law on land reform and the related legal empowerment work of NGOs, then analyzes three kinds of data collected in the study. These are: (i) judgmental data based on the independent observations and impressions of agrarian reform officials; (ii) quantitative data from a survey conducted in four communities (two with legal empowerment activities and two without); and (iii) the results of focus group discussions in those four communities.