Empowered citizens, responsive governments.
In a world where billions of people live outside the protection of the law, Namati is dedicated to putting the law in people’s hands. We’re building a global movement of grassroots legal advocates who work with communities to advance justice. These advocates are fighting on the front lines to ensure that people can protect their land, access essential services, and take part in the decisions that govern their lives.
The UN estimates that 4 billion people around the world live outside the protection of the law. For these people the law is an abstraction, or a threat, but not something they can use to exercise their basic rights. Lawyers meanwhile are costly, and focused on formal court channels that are impractical for most people.
Namati champions a method—grassroots legal advocates, or “community paralegals”—for bridging the gap between the law and real life. These paralegals are trained in basic law and in skills like mediation, organizing, education, and advocacy. They form a creative, problem-solving frontline that can engage formal and traditional institutions alike.
Just as primary health workers are connected to doctors and hospitals, community paralegals should be connected to lawyers and the possibility of litigation or high-level advocacy if frontline methods fail. We have seen firsthand how well-trained, well-supported paralegals can squeeze justice out of a broken system.
Namati deploys community paralegals to address some of the greatest justice issues of our times: protecting natural resource rights in the context of the global land rush, ensuring that essential services like healthcare and education are accountable to local communities, and securing citizenship rights for stateless people.
We collect data rigorously on every case. We use that information to advocate for systemic, large-scale reforms. We aim to demonstrate that not only can community paralegals help bring good laws to life, their work can also lead to positive changes in the law itself, and in the institutions by which law is applied.
Namati hosts a global network of 300 organizations from every region in the world, and is fostering greater learning and collaboration among these groups. We are aiming to grow a mature global field around community paralegals and primary justice services analogous to the robust field of primary healthcare. Our goal is to have grassroots legal advocates empowering communities worldwide.
Namati is a Sanskrit word with two meanings: “to bow” and “to shape something into a curve.” We hope to be guided by these principles of reverence and transformation. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Namati is grateful for generous support from institutions and private individuals, including among others UKAid from the Department of International Development; AusAid, the Australian Government’s Overseas Aid Program; UNDP, the United Nations Development Program; and OSF, the Open Society Foundations.