Sumaiya Khair Ph.D.

Professor of Law, University of Dhaka & Adviser, Executive Management, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB)

For years now, legal reform initiatives have been focusing on empowering the poor and the marginalized to make strategic use of the law to access justice. However, these have not always delivered the desired outcomes primarily because in many cases, this was done by simply grafting borrowed ideas from alien legal cultures without tailoring the responses to the socio-legal realities and without addressing in full the contradictions inhering in the economic, political and structural processes in a given society.

Since the capacity of citizens to recognize rights and make a claim is constantly shifting in sync with structural processes, rights proponents and development workers need to draw on each other’s strengths and coordinate tactical measures, including research, learning and communication, to help articulate the needs of the people perceived by them as essential and identify multiple entry points for action and change. Disjointed initiatives, no matter how well-meaning, are likely to exacerbate the powerlessness of the poor in accessing justice and redressing rights.