Legal Empowerment of the Poor: Process & Outcomes

The conceptual framework underlying the agenda of the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor had the following elements:

  • Protection and Opportunities as Goals
  • Justice, Property, Labour, and Business Rights as Pillars
  • Institutional and Legal Reforms as Empowerment Process
  • Organized Voice and Legal Identity as Enabling Conditions

As a member of two of the working groups of the Commission, one on labour rights and the other on business rights, Marty Chen of the WIEGO network elaborated on this framework and depicted it graphically as follows:

Chart of Legal Empowerment of the Poor

Voice and Identity are the key enabling conditions through which the poor can engage in legal reforms and, thereby, exercise legal rights in the four domains – four pillars – of the legal empowerment agenda. To gain Voice and Identity requires Institutional Reforms, including: building and strengthening membership-based organizations of the poor and promoting inclusive policy-making and rule-setting institutions that include representatives of the poor. In this enabling process, the poor need Voice and Identity as Citizens and Asset Holders as well as Workers and Entrepreneurs.

With Voice and Identity in these four dimensions of their lives, the poor can engage effectively in necessary legal reforms to ensure they exercise rights in the four domains – or pillars – of legal empowerment. The entire process from enabling conditions to empowerment goals requires legal reforms from above and legal action from below to correct for the failures of markets, public policies, and rule-setting institutions.