Making the law give the poor greater control over natural resources
Local groups in Africa can have greater control over the natural resources on which they depend if they have access to appropriate legal arrangements and adequate capacity to use them. This is the essence of the concept of legal empowerment – using the law to help disadvantaged groups have greater control over decisions and processes affecting their lives.
Yet, in much of rural Africa, the effectiveness of law as a tool for empowerment is constrained by inappropriate legislation that does not respond to local needs, or that fails to protect the interests of weaker groups; by lack of resources to implement and enforce legislation; by lack of legal awareness; by constraints on access to legal institutions such as courts; and by power asymmetries between actors standing to gain or to lose from law implementation.
Legal empowerment requires addressing these constraints through action at different levels, including for instance:
- law reform to establish or improve legal arrangements that strengthen the protection of local resource rights, or that provide greater say in decision-making processes affecting these rights
- strategies, approaches and support materials to help local groups make the most of the opportunities offered by the law, including legal literacy training, legal assistance, individual and public interest litigation, and representation and advocacy.
Together with partners, we aim to promote legal empowerment through:
- identifying innovative legal arrangements to secure local resource rights, developing ways to improve these arrangements, and supporting informed and participatory policy processes to change legal frameworks where needed
- developing, testing and implementing approaches to build local capacity to make use of the law (e.g. legal literacy training), targeting selected sites while developing innovative approaches that can be replicated elsewhere
- facilitating cross-country exchange of experience and wider dissemination to enable mutual learning and wider lesson sharing on innovative ways to use the law as a tool for empowerment.
The Drylands Issue Paper series contains reports in French and English and provides a forum for practitioners and policy makers to share ideas and experiences on the wide range of development issues that affect people living in dryland areas.
The Sustainable Market Investment Briefing series contains five papers that draw on legal research by IIED and partners to discuss the issues raised by legal arrangements for the protection of foreign investment.
A series of reports has also been produced with a focus on the role of land registration and the poor in a number of scenarios:
- Can Land Registration Serve Poor and Marginalised Groups? Summary Report
- Land Registration in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia
- Land Registration in Amhara Region, Ethiopia
- Land Registration and Women's Land Rights in Amhara Region, Ethiopia
- Land Registration in Eastern and Western Regions, Ghana
- Land Registration in Nampula and Zambezia provinces, Mozambique
- Land Registration in Maputo and Matola Cities, Mozambique