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Philanthropic and Justice Leaders Launch Legal Empowerment Fund

On Saturday, September 25, at the Global Citizen Live event in New York City, the Fund for Global Human Rights, in collaboration with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Namati, announced the launch of the Legal Empowerment Fund (LEF)—a bold new initiative to close the global justice gap.

The LEF will provide urgently needed, long-term support to grassroots justice defenders and organizations that are fighting to help people understand and claim their rights while shaping the laws that govern them. Over ten years, the LEF aims to raise $100 million to strengthen the people-centered justice movement.

Around the world, an estimated 5.1 billion people—a staggering two-thirds of the global population—lack meaningful access to justice. That means that when their rights are violated, they have nowhere to turn for help. As a result, Indigenous peoples’ lands are taken without their consent, the air and water of low-income communities are polluted with impunity, and ethnic minorities are denied basic government services like health care and education. 

“We believe in a future where all people enjoy equal protections and remedies under the law,” says Fund for Global Human Rights President and CEO Regan Ralph. “By supporting justice defenders in local communities, the Legal Empowerment Fund is an opportunity to afford people the dignity and protection they deserve.”

Across the globe, grassroots justice groups are striving to meet this challenge head-on. By equipping communities with the tools to know and use the law, people are able to stand up and fight back. To sustain their vital efforts, these frontline justice groups have long advocated for more support. The creation of the LEF is a direct response to their needs.

The LEF will support visionary grassroots justice groups with renewable and long-term core funding, offering space for experimentation and access to a global network of donors, advocates, and allies. Through its grant-making and technical assistance, the LEF will: 

  • Resource frontline civil society organizations 
  • Drive and share learning around effective legal empowerment strategies 
  • Build the collective power and agency of excluded communities, including women, Indigenous people, and children 
  • Enhance access to justice, improve laws and policies, and push forward systemic change 

The LEF will be directed by Atieno Odhiambo, a human rights lawyer whose work has focused on access to justice, democracy, and governance. She is based in Kenya.  

“Legal empowerment puts people, not institutions, at the heart of justice,” says Odhiambo. “I am extremely excited to be leading this incredible effort to put the power of the law into the hands of people and transform the world’s justice systems.” 

The LEF will be hosted by the Fund for Global Human Rights. It has been made possible through the generous support of funders and allies, including:  

  • The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, a private philanthropy committed to supporting efforts around the world that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society.
  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a nonpartisan, private charitable foundation that advances ideas and supports institutions to promote a better world.
  • Namati, which advances social and environmental justice by building a movement of people who know, use, and shape the law. Namati also convenes the Legal Empowerment Network, with over 2,500 groups and 10,000 individuals from every part of the world
  • Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a group of 39 UN member states, international organizations, global partnerships, civil society organizations, and the private sector working to accelerate action to implement the SDG targets for peace, justice, and inclusion (SDG16+).

For more information or to learn how to get involved in the fight for global justice, visit globalhumanrights.org/legal-empowerment.