Legal tools for citizen empowerment: sharing lessons from innovation

09 October 2014

Around the world, citizens' groups are taking action to change the way investments in natural resources are happening, to protect the rights of citizens and the environment for a fairer and more sustainable world. The Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment initiative shares tools and tactics among practitioners.

Kalimantan, Indonesia: A community leader discusses resistance to a logging company building a large oil palm plantation. The banner in the background demands that the company return the community’s rights. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network via Flickr)

Citizens' groups are using multiple levers to promote justice, sustainability and accountability in investment processes. These range from grassroots action to claim rights, engage in legal reforms and international policy debates, to mobilising international human rights bodies. It also includes making use of investor and company grievance mechanisms to scrutinising international investment treaties, contracts and arbitration.

Through approaches such as legal literacy trainings, paralegal programmes, radio broadcasts or local deliberation tools, civil society organisations are enabling communities to register collective landholdings, claim their rights and to have a say in investments that affect their lives.

There is a need to share lessons from this experience – both the successes and the challenges still to be overcome. And in a carbon-constrained and time-pressured world, practitioners need new ways to communicate, interact and learn from one another without necessarily travelling the world to resource-intensive meetings.

What is IIED doing?

IIED works with practitioners who are developing innovative approaches to reflect on their experiences and share this learning with others. This includes:

  • Documenting and publicising lessons learnt, and
  • Convening lesson-sharing events.

To facilitate international lesson-sharing, IIED and its partners use multiple interlinked channels, including international workshops, webinars, practitioner write-ups and newsletters.

Webinars

Webinars are online seminars that enable practitioners to share their experience, learn from each other and create new alliances. Examples of past webinars include:

Publications

The practitioner write-ups provide an opportunity to reflect on innovative experiences, and to share lessons with a wider community of practitioners who may be grappling with similar issues elsewhere, or may be inspired to take action.

Advancing indigenous peoples' rights through regional human rights systems: the case of Paraguay, Maximiliano Mendieta Miranda, Julia Cabello Alonso (2017), IIED Report | en Español

Improving accountability in agricultural investments: reflections from legal empowerment initiatives in West Africa, Thierry Berger, Lorenzo Cotula, Adrian Di Giovanni, Mamadou Fall, Mark Kakraba-​Ampeh, Samuel Nguiffo, Téodyl Nkuintchua, Eric Yeboah (2017), IIED Report

Connected and changing: an open data web platform to track land conflict in Myanmar, Catriona Knapman, Wai Wai Lwin (2016), IIED Report

Pillars of the community: how trained volunteers defend land rights in Tanzania, Godfrey Massay (2016), IIED report

Genre et foncier : l'expérience des consultations juridiques gratuites au Sénégal, Khadidiatou Kébé Diouf (2016), IIED Report (in French only)

Mainstreaming gender in Tanzania's local land governance, Nasieku Kisambu (2016), IIED Report

Community-based advocacy: lessons from a natural gas project in Mozambique, Alda Salomão (2015), IIED Report | en français | Português

Asserting community land rights using RSPO complaint procedures in Indonesia and Liberia, Tom Lomax (2015), IIED Report | en français | Español

Bringing community perspectives to investor-state arbitration: the Pac Rim case, Thierry Berger, Saúl Baños, Marcos A. Orellana (2015), IIED Report | en Español

Community-based monitoring of land acquisition: from the Buseruka oil refinery, Uganda, Bashir Twesigye (2015), IIED Report | en français

Advocacy on investment treaty negotiations: lessons from Malaysian civil society, Fauwaz Abdul Aziz (2015), IIED Report | en français

Catalysing famers' influence in shaping law reform: experience from Senegal, Ndèye Coumba Diouf (2015), IIED Report | en français

Legal advice for environmental justice: experience from eastern India, Sanjay Upadhyay, Suparna Jain, Enviro Legal Defence Firm (2015), IIED Report | en français

Sustaining legal empowerment in initiatives to support local land rights, Robin Nielsen (2012), IIED Report | en français

Legal empowerment in practice. Using legal tools to secure land rights in Africa, Lorenzo Cotula and Paul Mathieu (2008), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN/IIED Land Tenure and Resource Access in Africa Series

The reports listed above have been authored by one or more of the following organisations:

Contact

Lorenzo Cotula (lorenzo.cotula@iied.org), principal researcher, Natural Resources research group; programme lead

Emily Polack (emily.polack@iied.org), senior researcher, Natural Resources research group

Philippine Sutz (philippine.sutz@iied.org), senior researcher, Natural Resources research group

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