Bringing Justice to the Poor: Bottom-Up Legal Development Cooperation
Benjamin van Rooij, Bringing Justice to the Poor: Bottom-Up Legal Development Cooperation, 4 Hague J. on Rule Law 286 (2012).
In the last decade bottom-up approaches to legal development cooperation have become increasingly popular. Examples are reform ideas and programs using concepts including "access to justice", "micro-justice" and "legal empowerment". These approaches share a common concern that legal interventions should benefit the poor, and that their needs and preferences should form the basis for legal reforms. Proponents of these approaches argue that they are important alternatives to ineffective pre-existing legal reform practices which were based on "the rule of law orthodoxy". This paper critically discusses the content, context and merits of such bottom-up approaches. It concludes that while these approaches offer advantages, they should not substitute but complement pre-existing legal development cooperation practices and the rule of law paradigm they are based on. The sudden popularity of these new approaches shows how much legal development cooperation is a field of trends, where doubts about effectiveness force legal reformers to regularly shift from one paradigm to the next, enthusiastically applauding the seemingly new, while sacrificing the caricaturized old.