USAID and Legal Empowerment of the Poor

It seems the Legal Empowerment of the Poor has become some kind of a new and exciting development fad to be checked out, given the recent establishment of the UN Commission of Legal Empowerment of the Poor. First the World Bank held a series of Justice for Peace events, and also commissioned a strategy paper on the the topic. (UPDATE 5/30: which you can view the paper via this post). Now USAID has contracted ARD to study the same issue. 

Might this really turn out to be the new Development kid on the block, up-seating the current reign of 'Rule of Law'? What surprises me is that this is not a new field- it has been around for as long as local, grassroots NGOs have been, working with issues of poverty, some of which can be addressed using legal means. My worry is that, with the big aid agencies giving this so much attention, it becomes yet another promising 'field' of development, evoking independently of other sectors or being the 'flavor' of the month without much concern with realities or long term potential. Let's see how this all evolves- the Commission will be meeting later this month for the first time.

Development Gateway - Special Report on Information Society

Nadia Afrin, a colleague and content coordinator at the Development Gateway (whom I'd had numerous phone conversations and finally met in person recently), pointed out this Special Report on "Information Society: The Next Steps" by DG. Interesting network of folks talking about WSIS and other ICT4D related topics.

I've visited DG a couple of times during visits to Washington DC, and met some of their awesome staff.  In case you didn't know, the organization started within the World Bank and morphed into  an independent nonprofit (though some dispute the 'independent), supported by government donors as well as private sector pioneers. It aims to promote development through the use of ICT, mainly through knowledge sharing, although other programs are being created as well.

From their official website: 

Development Gateway is an international nonprofit organization with themission to reduce poverty and enable change in developing nations through information technology. It envisions a world in which the digital revolution serves people everywhere—creating greater opportunity through increased access to critical information; greater reliance on local capabilities; and more effective, better coordinated international aid. 

Development Gateway provides Web-based platforms that make aid and development efforts more effective around the world.  It focuses on three areas where even small investments in information and communications technology can make a major difference:

  • Effective government – enabling better aid management and coordination, and more efficient and transparent government procurement.
  • Knowledge sharing and collaboration – leveraging the Internet for online communications among development practitioners worldwide.
  • Local partner programs in nearly 50 countries – connecting developing country organizations into a global network to empower them to use information and communications technologies to bolster local development efforts