Today, over 4 billion people in the world – over half the world’s population -- are excluded from the mechanisms that can help them gain access to the rule of law. Most of these people belong to the most vulnerable segments of the population, including women, children and minority groups. The situation is especially pronounced for countries from the WANA region, where weak GDP growth, high inflation and low employment rates have served to increase the number of people living below the poverty line in the last three years.
Legal empowerment aims to enable the poor and marginalized to use the law to advance their rights and interests, and exercise increased control over their lives. Research has shown that when a population is empowered, entrepreneurialism is encouraged, growth patterns are equitable and inclusive, and cycles of exploitation and rights violations are interrupted, providing the marginalized with both the opportunities and the knowledge they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
While legal empowerment has expanded in many regions such as Asia and Latin America, the debate has largely lost momentum in the WANA region, as governments in the region confront pressing issues such as the growing refugee influx from Syria, double digit unemployment rates and an acute paucity of water. Reversing this trend is critical – as the recent events of the Arab Spring have showed, exclusion from the legal empowerment mechanisms can have disastrous consequence for economic growth, social equity and regional stability.
The WANA 2014 Forum, which brings together justice sector employees, NGO and legal aid workers, academics, religious scholars and legal empowerment practitioners, will seek to arrive at ways to arrive at a fundamental and transformational reform of legal systems in countries across the WANA region.
“By excluding justice and the rule of law, the first set of the MDGs were rendered ineffective in truly transforming the lives of the poorest and the most marginalized,”
“As efforts to articulate a roadmap beyond 2015 draw to a close, it is especially important that we act now to include a goal on justice and legal empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda.”
The WANA Forum 2014, ‘Legal Empowerment:
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