Friday, May 25, 2007

Expanding Justice

Any small business can tell you the importance of contracts. For a local book store , they offer assurances that you cannot just be thrown out leased space with no reason or warning. For a printer, they ensure that when someone orders a job they will pay for it when they pick it up. And for a little restaurant, contracts give you peace of mind that your supplies will show up every day - and recourse if someone doesn't deliver without a reason.

Unfortunately, about three billion people live and work in the "informal sector".

While most of the world’s poor possess assets of some kind, they lack a formal way to document these possessions through legally recognized tools such as deeds, contracts and permits. These individuals live
and work in the “informal economy,” outside a set of widely-recognized and enforceable rules.
The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and the President of Institute for Liberty and Democracy, Hernando de Soto, is working with governments and ngos to figure out the greatest legal challenges that hinder people's ability to lift themselves out of poverty. Because identifying a problem is only the first step, they are also developing "road maps" to enable governments to implement the reforms necessary improve their justice systems.

With that mouthful out of the way, I highly recommend the stories they have compiled and this video below, which illustrate the challenges many of the worlds poorest face every day, and how the Commission can hopefully make an impact.