LAP members voted to support the inaugural conference in Nairobi on ‘Strategic Legal Mechanisms for Delivering Social and Economic Justice in Africa’.
The conference was attended by delegates from across Africa which was crucial both in ensuring wide exposure to the topics under discussion and also enabled comprehensive sharing of experiences and expertise from across the continent. The LAP grant enabled a number of delegates to attend for whom the cost would otherwise have been prohibitive.
LAP has a history of supporting strategic litigation. LAP members supported the Mary Sunday case which, through creation of legal precedent, brought about positive social change for victims of domestic violence in Nigeria. This conference aimed to address the relatively uncommon use of strategic litigation.
The main objectives of the conference were:
- To engage jurists from around Africa in sharing knowledge, experience and best practices in using strategic litigation for positive social outcomes;
- To galvanise support and create awareness around use of strategic litigation to advance public policy and access justice;
- To strengthen the community of practice of persons involved in strategic litigation in Africa in respective countries to as to make use of this tool in advancing social change;
- To foster collaborations between diverse actors including litigators, academics, donors, human rights organisations to promote social justice causes; and
- Reflect on those opportunities and constraints that either impede or enable social change through strategic litigation via domestic, regional and international courts.
The conference attracted support from academic institutions and NGOs from across the globe – including Oxfam, Transparency International, The Enough Project, Cardiff University, Addis Ababa University, Makerere University, York University, CEPIL, Amnesty International, IHRDA, John F. Kennedy Human Rights, Oxford University and many others.
Through discussion across the various topics, it was apparent that opportunities for implementing strategic litigation cases exist: many people continue to suffer from hunger, low quality food, lack of social security, poor sanitation and healthcare and lack of clean water; women and girls continue to suffer discrimination; indigenous people’s rights are being eroded; and the impact of climate change in Africa requires comprehensive consideration. However state mechanisms continue to hinder strategic litigation in some jurisdictions.
It is hoped that this conference will initiate a new partnership between academic institutions, NGOs and jurists across Africa in order to promote and improve strategic litigation techniques in order to support efforts to achieve economic and social improvements across the continent.