On July 17, 2019, NYU Bernstein and Namati – supporting partners of the Justice For All Campaign – co-organized ‘How Legal Empowerment Advances Sustainable Development Goals: A Conversation with the 2019 Grassroots Justice Prize Winners.’ Watch here for a complete recording of the event.
The first panel was moderated by Sukti Dhital, Deputy Director of the NYU Bernstein Institute for Human Rights and co-founder of Nazdeek, and featured the winners of the 2019 Grassroots Justice Prize:
- Sara Hossain, Executive Director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST)
- Lisa Owens, Executive Director of City Life/Vida Urbana
- Prasant Mohanty, Executive Director of NIRMAN
Speakers began by explaining their organizations’ missions, going into depth about the communities with whom they work and illustrating how legal empowerment is essential to what they do. They then explained how their organizations are operating within the context of closing civic space, demonstrating the need for increased funding and protection.
The second panel was moderated by Vivek Maru, CEO of Namati, and featured the following access to justice thought leaders who discussed global processes and upcoming opportunities to advance legal empowerment through the Sustainable Development Goals:
- Maha Jweied, Senior Fellow at National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA)
- Joe Powell, Deputy CEO at Open Government Partnership
- Gabriela Burdiles Perucci, Project Director at Fiscalia Del Medio Ambiente
Vivek opened the panel by providing the context and history behind the Justice For All Campaign, explaining why the Campaign believes sustainable development cannot be achieved in the absence of justice and how the inclusion of SDG16 into the broader 2030 Agenda has not been followed up with adequate funding and commitments, especially in comparison to other goals. He went on to point out that while many countries interpret achieving Justice For All as improving top-down institutions such as courts, police, and prisons, supporting bottom-up legal empowerment efforts is equally as essential to fixing justice systems and realizing SDG16.
Speakers then launched into a discussion on how different stakeholders – the public, civil society, the private sector, and governments – each have a role to play in supporting grassroots legal empowerment efforts. For instance, Gabriela went into detail about the Escazú Agreement, the world’s first legally binding agreement for the protection of human rights defenders in environmental matters in Latin America.
In a Q&A session with speakers from both panels, the event concluded with a discussion about getting reforms implemented through collaboration between civic society and government, ensuring the continuation of legal empowerment efforts in shrinking civic spaces around the world, and the feasibility of citing the SDGs in the arena of strategic litigation.