Week 7: Inequality

Date: 08/24/2018     By: Justice For All


This post is part of 10 Weeks of Action: Demanding funding and protection for grassroots justice defenders by calling on our community to sign the #JusticeForAll petition. Each week, we will spotlight how access to justice is critical to the advancement of different thematic issues.

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” – Nelson Mandela

Nearly half of the world’s population – over 3 billion people – live on less than that $2.50 per day, and more and 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 day. (Do Something) Wealth disparity contributes to global inequality. High levels of inequality reduce the efficiency of economic growth in contributing to poverty reduction since the benefits of economic growth flow to affluent groups, rather than the poor. According to Oxfam, the wealthiest 42 people in the world hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion people who make up the world’s poorest. (Oxfam) The Economist recently reported that as inequality grows, so does the political influence of the rich and powerful. (Economist)

Discrimination in the law fuels inequality, as in many countries, family, nationality, health inheritance, and property laws favor certain groups among others. According to UNHCR, nationality can be denied or deprived through discriminatory practices in at least 20 countries around the world. (UNHCR) People often cannot afford to resolve their legal problems through the formal processes in courts, especially from marginalized groups and in remote communities. (OECD)

In 2015, governments committed to an ambitious agenda known as the Sustainable Development Goals, with a vision for a freer and fairer world by 2030. This agenda itself was framed around ending poverty and inequality, as governments, for the first time ever, made commitments to “leave no one behind” and “put the furthest behind first” when adopting this agenda. (Source) This is no easy feat, as it takes a reshifting of the way sustainable development is conceived, implemented, and reviewed.

How do we solve the gross inequality that often interwoven with discrimination against people’s rights? According to the Fight Inequality Alliance, the solution to inequality is “strengthened people power: connecting from the grassroots and across borders.” (Source) Grassroots justice defenders do just that: they use people power to connect communities from the grassroots up to help address systemic injustices and advance access to justice to reduce inequality. Grassroots justice defenders are people who work with their communities, helping them to know, use, and shape the law.

Unfortunately, the work of grassroots justice defenders is increasingly under threat, as funding remains scarce and decreasing, and many grassroots justice defenders find themselves under threat of harassment, violence, or worse. 

Tell governments it’s time to #TipTheScales towards #JusticeForAll and fund grassroots justice defenders to help end inequality and discrimination by signing and sharing the petition below.


Sign the Petition

Tell world leaders to fund and protect justice defenders.

We, the world’s justice defenders and citizens, call on world leaders to keep their promise, made at the United Nations, to ensure all people have equal access to justice. Only by funding and protecting grassroots justice defenders can we make justice, not injustice, the norm. The moment is now. It is time to tip the scales towards #JusticeForAll.

The number of signatures will be shared with governments during the UN General Assembly in September 2018.


The facts

    • Over 2/3 of extremely poor people in low income countries and lower-middle income countries live in households where the head of household is from an ethnic minority group. (IDS)
    • More than 3/4 of extremely poor people live in rural areas. (IDS)
    • Over 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries, illustrating both the confluence of poverty and disability and the importance of proactively addressing the needs of people with disabilities in development strategies. (WPACDP)
    • Less than 40% of least developed countries have said that legal aid services are available in rural areas; this proportion increases only slightly to 64% in lower-middle-income countries. (UNDP)
    • By 2014, over 75% of the population of developing countries lived in societies with a more unequal income distribution than they had in the 1990s. (UNDP)
    • The world’s poorest children are 4 times more likely not to go to school than the world’s richest children, and 5 times more likely not to complete primary school. (UNESCO)


How justice defenders are tackling the issue

  • In India, Nazdeek uses legal empowerment approaches to work with women living in the slums to access benefits they are entitled to. Women in these communities are routinely denied rights such as maternal health care, do not know their rights or how to access these services. Information is communicated between the organizations, it’s community paralegals, and clients via text message, allowing for rapid-response and the ability to reach women in their homes. According to Nazdeek co-founder Jayshree Satpute, “Our focus is to address gaps in service delivery and increase access to justice by building the legal capacity of community members so that they can demand their basic rights from the government.” Nazdeek worked with the slum community in Bhim Nagar, New Delhi, who in turn pushed for clean water accessibility from the government. (We Forum)
  • An Oxford study on extended and unlawful pretrial detention in Sierra Leone showed that a program placing paralegals in prisons to provide free legal services reduced the numbers of prisoners held on remand by 20% and increased the percentage gaining access to bail by 13%. 
  • Most children who are in conflict with the law run the risk of being treated as an adult while in the hands of police because it is very difficult to determine their age in the absence of a birth certificate. If age is not correctly assessed, young offenders often end up in prison as convicted adults. Since 2004, paralegals have diverted an average of 77 percent of young persons in conflict with the law. (IDLO)
  • In Ecuador the World Bank evaluated five legal service centers focused on enforcing child support payments for poor women and reducing domestic violence. The clinics provide legal consultation, representation and dispute resolution services. A study on impact found that not only were the clinics less expensive than private lawyers, they were also more effective. The study found that the centers’ clients were 20% more successful in being awarded child support (while the probability of actually receiving a transfer increased by 10.4%) compared to those without access to legal aid. They were also 17% less likely to experience physical violence after separation from their partners. (World Bank)
  • A research project in Tanzania and Mozambique assessed the impact of legal empowerment interventions on the rural women most likely to experience gender discrimination related to land—divorced women and widows. The study found that in Mozambique, in any village with a paralegal, almost every dispossessed woman asserted her land rights claim. (Namati)


Additional resources