International Conference on Community Legal Empowerment

Why is legal empowerment important?
You read the short version

Over the course of this Conference, we will explore the importance of legal empowerment in the Ukrainian context.  What it means for Ukraine`s legal aid system, why it matters and what we can learn from the international community about how to promote it effectively.


What is legal empowerment?

Although the rule of law is the cornerstone of democratic societies, legal empowerment is also a critical element of democracy.

Legal empowerment refers to “the process of increasing the capacity of ordinary people to exercise their human and civil rights as individuals or as members of a community.”[1]  Its guiding principle is that legal systems and administrative processes will only benefit all citizens when people can use their rights to achieve justice.

While almost all nations endorse human rights, a commitment to human rights protection alone does not ensure that all people have access to legal protection to help them solve their justice-related problems.  Instead, legal empowerment actively encourages “the use of legal rights, services, systems, and reform, by and for disadvantaged populations and often in combination with other activities, to directly alleviate their poverty, improve their influence on government actions and services or otherwise increase their freedom.”[2]

Achieving legal empowermen requires the creation of opportunities and supports for vulnerable groups to learn how to use and negotiate legal and administrative systems in order to find equitable and concrete solutions to everyday problems. Legal empowerment focuses on helping individuals to gain the capacity they need to access justice themselves.

[1] George Soros. 2013. “Legal Empowerment, Justice, and Development” Justice Initiatives: Open Society Initiatives, 1.

[2] Stephen Golub, 2009. “The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor: One Big Step Forward and a Few Steps Back for Development Policy and Practice,” Hague Journal on the Rule of Law 1:1, 105.