Legal tools: sharing lessons from innovation

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.

Article, 09 October 2014
Law, economies and justice
A collaborative programme of work on renegotiating the law to promote fairer, more sustainable economies
A group of men having a discussion

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 rights to the community (Photo: Rainforest Action Network via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

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 paralegal programmes, access to justice work, local by-laws and transnational advocacy, 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 are online seminars that enable practitioners to share their experience, learn from each other and create new alliances. Examples of past webinars include:


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. 


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

Additional resources

Blog: Legal empowerment as action research, Lorenzo Cotula (January 2022)

Blog: COVID-19 and the sites of rights resilience, Lorenzo Cotula, Elaine Webster (May 2020)

Between hope and critique: human rights, social justice and re-imagining international law from the bottom up, Lorenzo Cotula (2020), Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law


To more information, email [email protected]