Legal Empowerment Methodology

The Microjustice Legal Empowerment Methodology can be described as:
  1. the provision of standardized legal services to
  2. marginalized target groups
  3. with a view to their social, economic and political inclusion in society in the country where they live,
  4. while undertaking bottom-up institutional reform and capacity-building to increase access to justice, and building bridges between the people and their government/administration,
  5. financed in a cost-efficient and sustainable way, which can be scaled-up.

‘Marginalized target groups’ refers to:
  • Victims of conflict and disaster Victims of conflict and (natural or man-made) disaster are helped to access the rights, entitlements and benefits of the system and humanitarian aid. They are also helped to restore their pre-disaster legal situation (e.g. restoration of property and arranging civil paperwork).
  • People at the bottom of the social/income pyramid, who do not enjoy the entitlements, opportunities and rights of the system in their country and who lack legal protection. Within this group there are two subgroups:
    1. The poorest, who possess nothing. The focus is on civil documentation that gives them an existence in the system and access to entitlements.
    2. People who are trying to escape the poverty cycle by engaging in economic activities, starting to possess a piece of land and tools etc. It is difficult to escape from poverty if one does not arrange legal protection of one’s possessions and business.

Microjustice aims to fulfil the basic legal needs of people who do not have access to the legal system on their country. Microjustice legal services are focused on the practicalities of everyday life. The aim is to ensure that basic legal needs are satisfied to help provide individuals with legal protection and access to rights and entitlements such as public services, benefits and amenities. In particular, Microjustice focuses on non-litigious private and administrative legal matters that are fundamental for legal inclusion such as civil documents, and documents relating to: property and housing, income-generating activities, family law, and inheritance.

In the last decades, there has been a movement which recognizes that there is a market at the bottom of the social pyramid. This has led to movements for service provision to the poor, including Inclusive Finance/Microfinance and Microjustice. Inclusive finance entails providing financial services to the poor while Microjustice entails providing legal services for the poor, in a sustainable, donor-independent way. The bottom line of this movement is that products for the poor are not donor-dependent but become sustainable through income from the client group. The Microjustice Methodology is based on the following market-inspired concepts, such as economies of scale, cost-efficiency and clients (rather than beneficiaries).

The international community recognized the importance of legal aid for the poorest people as a precondition for sustainable development. The Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor was established under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program. It was the first global initiative which examined the link between exclusion, poverty and the law. The findings of the Commission’s report in 2008 illustrate the importance of providing legal services to the poor, in particular, legal services relating to (1) identity papers, (2) land and house registration, (3) income generation and registration of legal personality (including business registration) and (4) worker’s rights. Through its structural and sustainable method, Microjustice ensures people can obtain these legal documents. It combines this with evidence-based lobbying at an institutional level.

In 2018, Microjustice started its Legal Inclusion Mapping Program, a tool that will further the work done in the Legal Empowerment Program.