CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Program’s work on grassroots legal empowerment won the 2016 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. CPR researchers explain their work in India, and why this model makes a difference.
CPR and Namati's work won the 2016 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Can you tell us more about the work you do in India?
Since 2012, Namati and CPR have a unique partnership. Together we work to implement an action research project on legal empowerment for environmental justice in India. The project aims to improve the understanding of the institutional mechanisms and regulatory practices for protecting citizens from environmental impacts of industrialization and land use change.
We collect empirical data on how grievances or complaints are handled by specific agencies and what outcomes it leads to. The data from these cases helps us make evidence-based policy recommendations for institutional reform.
The legal empowerment method involves working through these cases with the involvement of those affected through trained community paralegals. Our trained paralegals work with the affected communities and the government, helping in crafting remedies that are meaningful.
Can you tell us more about the legal empowerment work on the ground, and what makes this model unique?
Namati practices the legal empowerment approach to solve some of the gravest justice problems of our time. In each of its programs, trained community grassroots legal advocates or paralegals, (also called grassroots legal advocates) treat their clients as empowered citizens rather than victims requiring an expert service. Instead of ‘I will solve this problem for you,’ Namati’s message is: ‘We will solve this together, and you will grow stronger in the process.’
Together, the paralegals and clients use different strategies and methods to determine the most effective ways to address justice challenges. In India, for example, we have worked on over a 100 cases related to pollution, loss of access to livelihood resources and damage to property. In all cases, the problems have existed for several years or have occurred repeatedly.
Paralegals trained by the program have been instrumental in bringing regulatory attention to these cases and assist in shaping effective remedies. Since we track every case systematically, we are able to use this information for systemic changes, like better policies for environmental regulation.
Plans for CPR-Namati, going forward?
Our plan over the next few years is that we hope to develop scalable models of participatory environmental regulation that focus on the experience of the environment by citizens and their resultant needs. We will work to implement these models in India and share what we have learned with legal empowerment practitioners around the world.
As a program that would like to respond creatively and productively to global environmental challenges, the goals for the Namati-CPR program are ambitious. There could not have been a better place than India to test this approach and learn from because India has a rich tradition of environmental values as well as a robust set of environmental laws. CPR’s long-standing research experience and engagement with national, regional and international policy is a unique asset to this program.
Which are the other countries in which you do similar work? And what areas do you span?
Namati and its partners currently work in eight countries: India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Mozambique, Liberia and Uganda. We focus on enforcing environmental law, protecting community lands, and securing the rights to citizenship and effective healthcare. We also convene a global network of over 600 legal empowerment groups from 150 countries. The members are learning from one another and working together to make justice a reality for the billions of people who live outside the protection of the law.
To learn more about CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Program’s work, visit the dedicated page here.
Read Namati CEO Vivek Maru's reflection on receiving the Skoll Award here.