New global fund to help close the justice gap

Philanthropic leaders and international partners launched the new Legal Empowerment Fund on 25 September during Global Citizen Live.


By Harshani Dharmadasa & Alisa Jimenez

Image: The Fund for Global Human Rights

1.5 billion people had justice problems they could not resolve before the COVID-19. These include land grabs, bitter family disputes around divorce and inheritances, and violence and crime at home and work.

The health crisis has exposed and heightened these injustices that threaten peopleʼs well-being, safety, and lives. Women and children face a heightened risk of violence at home, workers are losing their jobs, health care systems are stressed, local businesses are at risk of closing permanently, and the world is bracing for a global recession. A social crisis has merged with the health crisis — bringing into sharp focus the systemic racism that has, for generations, held people of color from rising. It has laid bare the reality that justice systems do not work for all people.

Despite these setbacks, justice leaders, and grassroots activists have stepped up action to meet the needs of the people, often doing more with fewer resources. Such support is vital to families accessing legal aid to keep their homes from foreclosing, protect women and children from violence, and provide justice to isolated and incarcerated communities.

But bolder, more long-term action is needed to deliver justice to people and communities, and grassroots activities call for greater support and sustainable financing. That is why the Legal Empowerment Fund (LEF) was launched at the Global Citizen Live event on September 25th in New York City to close the global justice gap. This fund is the first of its kind. It represents a ten-year, multi-million-dollar effort pioneered by the Fund for Global Human Rights, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Namati, and the Pathfinders. It will provide urgently needed support to grassroots justice defenders and organizations fighting to help people understand and claim their rights while shaping the laws that govern them. Over the next ten years, the fund aims to raise $100 million to strengthen the movement for people-centered justice.

“We must put people at the center of justice systems to make justice for all a reality. Champions driving change in their communities can be found worldwide, and they deserve our support. Pathfinders are proud to be a partner to the Legal Empowerment Fund, which will provide long-term support to justice leaders in a variety of contexts and enable them to deliver meaningful change in people’s lives.” — Liv Tørres, Director of Pathfinders.

The Legal Empowerment Fund is directed by Atieno Odhiambo, a human rights lawyer whose work has focused on access to justice, democracy, and governance.

“Legal empowerment puts people, not institutions, at the heart of justice,” says Odhiambo. “I am extremely excited to be leading this incredible effort to put the power of the law into the hands of people and transform the world’s justice systems.”

For more information or to learn how to get involved in the fight for justice for all, visit

The Fund for Global Human Rights hosts the Legal Empowerment Fund.

With contributions from:

And in partnership with the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just & Inclusive Societies.