Governance and politics

Legal Empowerment, Civil Society and Corruption: Rethinking Governance-oriented Aid in Today’s Challenging International Contexts

West-Africa Horn of Africa, Middle East, North Africa,
Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University, Dhaka

Legal empowerment, a mainly civil society-centered approach to integrating justice, governance and development, is an under-utilized and under-appreciated mechanism for combating corruption. The discussion starts by sketching an impetus for the research presented here. It then summarizes the nature of legal empowerment. The next section explains how and why the author’s background as a consultant and researcher informs the research he has conducted. The discussion then addresses and documents the failure of the government-centered paradigm that many aid agencies have pursued in seeking to improve governance and constrain corruption. Next, the paper provides general and specific indications of legal empowerment impact on corruption. The penultimate part of the paper considers how support for legal empowerment and civil society efforts can prove productive in the challenging contexts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fragility of numerous states and a global rising tide of authoritarianism. The discussion concludes with basic recommendations for future action and research, including a suggestion that civil society-centered legal empowerment approaches merit increased political and financial support from aid agencies seeking to improve governance and constrain corruption.

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