Members will remember voting to support the inaugural conference in Nairobi on ‘Strategic Legal Mechanisms for Delivering Social and Economic Justice in Africa’ last October. The conference ran for 3 days at the University of Nairobi as a collaboration between Oxfam International and the University of Nairobi and was a huge success.
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 attendance by a number of delegates who would otherwise have found the cost prohibitive. They extend their thanks to LAP members.
LAP has a history of supporting strategic litigation. See for example the Mary Sunday case where a relatively small grant funded litigation which, through creation of legal precedent, brought about positive social change in that jurisdiction. In Africa the use of strategic litigation is relatively uncommon – an issue this conference aimed to address.
The conference had five main objectives:
(i) To engage jurists from around Africa in sharing knowledge, experience and best practices in utilising strategic litigation for positive social outcomes;
(ii) To galvanise support and create awareness around use of strategic litigation to advance public policy and access justice;
(iii) 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;
(iv) To foster collaborations between diverse actors including litigators, academics, donors, human rights organisations to promote social justice causes; and
(v) Reflect on those opportunities and constraints that either impede or enable social change through strategic litigation via domestic, regional and international courts.
Through the topics of Women’s Rights; Health & Environment Rights; Oil, Gas & Minerals; and Human & Peoples’ Rights., the conference considered the following issues:
(i) The factors to consider and strategies that make for successful strategic litigation;
(ii) Learning opportunities from cases across Africa;
(iii) Strategic litigation as a part of a broader strategy for influencing change;
(iv) Challenges and risks;
(v) Financing and programming for strategic litigation; and
(vi) Enforcement of judgements.
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 both a need and appetite exists for strategic litigation across the African continent. 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 often 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 thereby supporting efforts to achieve economic and social improvements across the continent.
LAP is proud to have sponsored this event and we would like to thank members for their valuable contribution. For further information please download the conference booklet, or read it below.
Photo credits: Oxfam International/University of Nairobi