Dan Banik: The Legal Empowerment of the Poor
In Handbook on the Rule of Law, Edward Elgar publishing, 2018.
The chapter is written by Dan Banik.
The legal empowerment of the poor (LEP) approach attracted worldwide attention when it claimed that over four billion people live without legal protection and that poverty persists partly because the poor do not enjoy legal rights or the power to exercise those rights. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the concept of legal empowerment and how it is distinct from human rights-based approaches. The ensuing discussion thereafter examines the reaction of the international community to a series of reports published by the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor in 2005 and the extent to which the approach has since been mainstreamed in global development efforts. The final sections of the chapter critically examine the legal and political dimensions of empowerment with specific reference to the much-publicized right to food case in India. I argue that an over-reliance on LEP is inadequate in tackling difficult questions of inequality, discrimination, and poverty. Without an explicit focus on power and politics, approaches such as the LEP will not be able to achieve sustained poverty reduction.
Poverty, empowerment, legal reform, rule of law, India
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