property rights

136, Vivek Maru, Namati | The Rule of Law for Everyone

Namati puts the rule of law in the hands of people.

The rule of law is a bedrock of most modern societies. No one is above the law. We are all equal under the law. And yet, more than four billion people live outside of the protection of the law. Their rights are easily violated. They have no right to their land. They are denied basic human rights. They are threatened and intimidated, often by the very people who are supposed to protect them.

Vivek Maru learned about social justice from his grandfather who was part of the Gandhian Movement. Vivek wrote his undergrad thesis on Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Malcom X. After college, he received a fellowship to study Gandhian social action in India. He settled in the Kutch district. There he worked on watershed development.

Upon returning to law school, he felt conflicted. He considered dropping out. “What I was learning about the law seemed so contradictory to that Gandhian spirit that I admire,” he told me. But he stuck with his studies.

By 2003, Vivek made his way to Sierra Leone, just after the end of a bloody civil war that had left more than 50,000 dead. Though the country had achieved peace, most of the civil institutions were weak or non-existent. In the entire country, there were less than 100 lawyers. Most of those were in the capital city of Freetown. Across rural Sierra Leone, people had little recourse for legal complaints.

Vivek formed Timap for Justice, training paralegals throughout the country. These paralegals, often referred to as barefoot lawyers, restored the rule of law in many communities. The idea of using paralegals for social justice work is not new. What was different with Timap was that the paralegals coordinated and learned from one another. Eventually the work of Timap was recognized by the World Bank, International Crisis Group and others.

In 2011, Vivek began to scale his community paralegal work to other countries. To do so, he formed Namati. Namati helps people to understand, use, and shape the laws that affect them. Namati develops innovative methods that allow grassroots legal advocates to take on challenges to justice. They spread these methodologies through an interconnected coalition of organizers. The organizers share insights and learn from one another. The coalition work for large-scale, system-changing policy changes. Once the policies are passed, the barefoot lawyers work with local communities to bring those policies to life.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Vivek Maru

“Three billion people around the world live on lands to which they don’t have legal rights.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Any big problem you can imagine, law and justice matters,’ @VivekHMaru, @GlobalNamati”]

“Even though we’ve got tons of lawyers, we have an extraordinary crisis in terms of access to justice.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘I was dreaming about social justice since I was a kid.’ @VivekHMaru, @GlobalNamati“]

“What I was learning about the law seemed so contradictory to that Gandhian spirit that I admire.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘There is a way of approaching the law that sets its sites on transformation.’ @VivekHMaru, @GlobalNamati“]

“I have found that even in some of the toughest situations, well-equipped and well-supported paralegals can manage to squeeze justice out of broken systems.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Study history.’ @VivekHMaru, @GlobalNamati“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘You might not notice law and justice if you’re not looking for it.’ @VivekHMaru, @GlobalNamati“]

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112, Martin von Hildebrand, Gaia Amazonas | Promoting the Rights of Indigenous People and the Environment

Martin von Hildebrand has been working with indigenous people for the last 42 years to protect their rights and the environment.

Martin lived with indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest from the 1972 through 1980. There, he witnessed rubber tappers exploiting the lands and missionaries converting the indigenous people from their traditional ways. By listening to the indigenous people, he was able to learn what they wanted, and to explore ways to secure their future.

Martin realized that, the indigenous people needed to secure land rights, the right to self-governance, and environmental protections. Martin worked with the government to secure all of these rights. In Colombia, 26 million hectares were set aside. Indigenous people have their own governmental system, and they are managing their environmental programs.

Martin’s work is spreading beyond Colombia to the rest of the Amazon. The Amazon is critical for so many reason. The Amazon is a rich source of biodiversity. Twenty percent of the world’s oxygen comes from the Amazon. And the Amazon rainforest is responsible for moving moisture from the sea inwards, through what has been described as “flying rivers.”

Today, the rainforest remains under pressure from hydropower, oil, mining, roads, timber production and agriculture. Martin takes a collaborative and pragmatic approach to saving the rainforest.

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