Legal Mobilization Platform

Using the law to advance social justice claims
Duck-Rabbit illusion - the mind's eye1892
  • Tackling the environmental crises while ensuring a just transition to sustainable societies

  • Achieving the universal realization of human rights, which includes access to safe and affordable housing, nutrition, water security and healthcare, and reproductive health

  • Addressing systemic racism, including the racial legacies of slavery and colonialism

These societal challenges mainly involve legal obligations of states, but also of private actors. Understanding the potential for mobilizing these obligations is the core aim of the Legal Mobilization Platform (LMP).

Establishing accountability for implementing relevant obligations of states and private actors holds the potential to substantially contribute to climate, racial and socioeconomic justice.

Change the politics not the climate_Tania Malrechauffe_unsplash
Tania Malrechauffe_unsplash

Against this backdrop, the work of the LMP centres on the question: 

How can we understand and strategically strengthen various forms of legal mobilization, and those who engage in it, in order to address key accountability challenges at the local and global levels, in ways that are impactful, legitimate and supportive of the rule of law, and ultimately contribute to systemic justice?

Legal mobilization is aimed at challenging existing power structures and therefore requires deliberate, strategic, bold and innovative approaches

Black lives matter demonstration
Karen Eliot, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

A Legal Mobilization Platform: Why, what and how?

The Platform supports and strengthens impactful, legitimate forms of legal mobilization and those involved in them in the fields of climate, racial and socio-economic justice, thus strengthening legal certainty, the rule of law and, ultimately, systemic justice.

It strengthens legal mobilization in different ways:

Enhancing impact

International legal agreements made by states in the field of climate, racial and socio-economic justice and related national laws are not always implemented by these states in accordance with the standards set by human rights treaty bodies and other supervisory organs. How can legal mobilization resolve this lack of implementation and promote accountability and how can we better understand the institutional dimensions at local, national and international levels? 

Research within the LMP focuses specifically on assessing impact, synthesizing the critical literature in this field, helping to develop methodological approaches and drawing on action research data and the input from societal partners to develop a theory of how to strengthen the impact of legal mobilization in different fields, directed towards systemic justice.

Enhancing legitimacy

The political dimension of legal mobilization, whereby organizations explicitly recognize and engage with relations of power and embedded interests, tends not to be addressed in the choice of specific legal mobilization strategies, thus risking (a perception of) illegitimacy.

Researchers within the LMP synthesize literature on assessing normative and social legitimacy, developing various legal and empirical research methods, to subsequently draw upon action research data and other input from societal partners to understand how the legitimacy of various forms of legal mobilization in different fields can be strengthened.

Strengthening the rule of law

In its ideal form, legal mobilization strengthens the rule of law (Rechtsstaat), in ensuring that the government abides by the rule of law. The rule of law itself serves to protect the rights of minorities, safeguards the independence of institutions within the trias politica, and protects the security of those involved in deliberative democracy. It is precisely because legal mobilization may potentially undermine positions of power and privilege that legal mobilizers may be under threat, thus triggering a need for legal protection.

Researchers within the LMP synthesize literature on the role of legal defenders in strengthening the rule of law as a whole, also drawing upon action research data and other input from societal partners to create insight on potential ways of supporting legal defenders while strengthening the rule of law as a whole.

Fostering joint learning

There is significant potential for joint learning between practitioners and academics on strategies of legal mobilization in considering their impact, legitimacy and relevance to the rule of law.

To harness this potential, the LMP utilizes a pedagogical learning approach that is critically-reflexive (Jessop and Knio 2019), exploring the multiple factors that contribute to societal and political dilemmas. This approach is designed to provide strategically-important insights into how the law may respond to and, above-all, respond to and manage situations of crisis.

What the LMP does

The Platform's initial set of activities include:

  1. Coordinate Platform-level activities and organizational affairs of the consortium
  2. Seek out material support for the LMP-related research and other projects of members of the Consortium
  3. Host events, including seminars, conferences, expert meetings and capacity-building workshops
  4. Support a network of PhD researchers and early-career scholars
  5. Share knowledge and resources

Interdisciplinary international Platform

The Platform consists of a dynamic set of societal partners, working together with academic partners.

It is hosted at the International Institute of Social Studies within the Global Development and Social Justice Research Programme.

The LMP supports both academic researchers and practitioners, actively encourages a dialogue between them and serves as an innovative, co-creation incubator of ideas. It facilitates support to its participating members, especially to early-career researchers and practitioners.

Beijing China, LGBT activist won the first advocacy litigation in December 2014
Beijing China, LGBT activist won the first advocacy litigation in December 2014
Muyi Xiao

LMP outputs

This section includes an overview of the projects the Legal Mobilization Platform is currently working on. Some are more long-term projects, others will be finished soon. 

The LMP team is very grateful to be able to work on such a varied array of inspiring projects. 

On 25 January 2024, the Legal Mobilization Platform and the Tilburg University Law School organized a conference titled Protest Under Pressure. Around 70 participants from different parts of the world were present at the event, which facilitated open discussions across disciplines and between academia and practice. The conference mainly focused on the increasing infringements on the right to protest in the Netherlands as well as internationally and also on how we can overcome these challenges together. 

The coordinator of the Legal Mobilization Platform has written a short preliminary report about the Protest Under Pressure conference. This report details the organizing process of the conference, the outline of the conference on the day itself, initial reactions from participants after the conference and the coordinator’s own reflections on the conference and its format.

A longer report about the conference will be published at a later stage.

This project is fiscally hosted by our partner Systemic Justice and is led by four co-editors with academic and legal backgrounds, namely: Nani Jansen ReventlowEddie Bruce-JonesLyn K.L. Tjon Soei Len, and Adam Weiss. Intersectional Rewrites aims to draw attention to the European Court of Human Rights’ lack of engagement with the concept of intersectionality. 

It has invited authors from both practice and academia to rewrite recent judgments by the Court in an intersectional way. The rewritten judgments will form the chapters of a book that will be published later on.

In February 2024, the Legal Mobilization Platform assisted with the organization of a multi-day peer review workshop for this project, which was hosted at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague.

Our partner the Black Jacobines came up with the idea of setting up a truth or research commission about the Dutch colonial and slavery heritage. They approached us to see whether we could assist them with this project. 

Together with publicist Henry Does, the Legal Mobilization Platform has written a concept note detailing why such a commission is necessary, what its goals should be and what its activities should entail. 

We received feedback on the concept note from the Black Jacobines and had a fruitful meeting with them recently to discuss the content, approaches and scope of the project. 

The Black Jacobines are in charge of this project with the LMP following their lead. The project aims to acknowledge the past and learn how the past continues to impact the world until this day. 

These activities are aimed at learning more about the work of our current and aspiring partners. They provide an opportunity to get to know each other better and to share ideas on possible ways to cooperate more closely. 

A four-part webinar series, hosted by the International Institute of Social Studies with colleagues from the Legal Mobilization Platform, in conversation with academic and societal partners, and with the participation of Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.

Held on 13 May 2024, the first webinar in the series, 'October 7 2023: Terrorism or national liberation movement?' discussed the Hamas movement, its history and development, to make sense of what the events of 7 October 2023 were about.

7 October 2023: Terrorism or national liberation movement?

7 October 2023: Terrorism or national liberation movement?

Between 7-17 February 2023, a delegation that consisted of colleagues from the Legal Mobilization Platform, the ISS, the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights and Al-Haq, travelled to South Africa.  

The visit was supported and funded by ISS, mainly through the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission

During the visit, the delegation met with three South African Universities, namely the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Fort Hare. At these universities, the delegation had meetings with senior and mid-career academic and non-academic staff as well as with students. They discussed, amongst other things, ideas about further teaching and research cooperation. 

The delegation also visited civil society organizations such as Public Interest Practice and Lawyers for Human Rights, the South African Foreign Office and the Dutch Embassy in South Africa.

A few months later, a delegation from Wits University also visited the ISS and the LMP. From 17-21 April 2023, Asma Ooni, Khlekani Moyo, Robert van Niekerk and Allan Meso were in the Netherlands and met with several members of the Legal Mobilization Platform. 

In March 2023the Legal Mobilization Platform Secretariat travelled around the Netherlands for meetings with colleagues from two of its partners, the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP) and the Amsterdam Law School

It also visited the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), which has become a new LMP-partner.

From 9-25 June 2023, the coordinator of the Legal Mobilization Platform visited Palestine. The visit started with a meeting with academic staff and students of the legal clinic of Birzeit University, which is located close to Ramallah in the West Bank. Colleagues from ISS and Al-Haq also joined the meeting. During the meeting, we discussed options for partnerships, based on the needs and wishes of all the partners involved. 

A few days later, the LMP-coordinator participated in the Al-Haq Summer School, which included lectures as well as field visits throughout Palestine. The coordinator gained many new insights during this summer school, which she can implement in the work she does for the Legal Mobilization Platform.

On 26 June 2023, the coordinator of the Legal Mobilization Platform and South African legal clinic expert and ISS research fellow Lee Anne de la Hunt travelled to Nijmegen to meet two colleagues from our partner, the Radboud University Law Clinic on Human Rights. 

During this meeting, participants shared ideas on how to strengthen the legal clinic landscape in the Netherlands and on how to connect Dutch legal clinics to legal clinics abroad, including in South Africa and Palestine. 

Both this visit and the meeting with the legal clinic of Birzeit University form part of our ‘Legal Clinical Education in Comparative Perspective’ project

In November 2023, the coordinator of the Legal Mobilization Platform and the LMP-intern working on the project concerning the research commission colonial dehumanization, visited a play by Action Zoo Humain, titled ‘De Waarheidscommissie’ (The Truth Commission). 

The play was performed in a church in Amsterdam. It depicted a fictionalized truth commission, with a commission, witnesses, experts and a chair. The commission focused on the use of human zoos by colonial regimes such as the Netherlands. In these zoos, colonized people were exhibited as ‘exotic.’ The truth commission in the play discussed these shameful events and also their impact on the present. It put forward several motions on which the audience could vote. 

The play has served as a great source of inspiration for the research commission that the LMP is working on, a project initiated and led by our partner the Black Jacobineswho were, among others, involved in drafting het Zwart Manifest (Black Manifesto). One of the members of the Black Jacobines was also keynote speaker at the presentation of the final report of ‘De Waarheidscommissie’. 

Through this connection, we will be able to get in touch with the producers of the play in order to brainstorm further together about truth commissions and research commissions. 

On 15 December 2023, the question ‘What can be done by the education sector to address the responsibility of the state for its past involvement in the commission of slavery’ resulted in the start of the dialogue ‘Een jaar na de excuses voor het slavernijverleden: een verkenning naar de rol van het onderwijs’ organized by Comité 30 juni 1 juli Den Haag, InHolland Hogeschool and the Nationaal Instituut Nederlands slavernijverleden en erfenis. The Legal Mobilization Platform contributed to this dialogue. 

Keynote speakers Naomi van Stapele and Riiziane Golamun from The Hagueinterna University of Applied Sciences, alongside participants from other educational institutions, local governments and civil society organizations, examined the effects of the apologies presented by the Dutch Government and the Dutch Crown. Further questions pushed the attendees to reflect on the steps that have been taken and those that still ought to be pursued; and, most relevantly – given the venue – what the education sector can do. 

The immediate response was to continue the conversation and to create instances of participation that contribute to changing the way society interacts with and approaches this issue that continues to be relevant in conversations in the Netherlands. One categorical idea was that there can be no healing without reparations. Such reparations involve, among other more obvious manifestations, permeating and deepening the way in which these issues are addressed in Dutch tertiary educational institutions. This will make it possible to democratize the conversation about the Dutch colonial and slave-owning past in a palpable way – by bringing these issues into the spaces that can create a change in the new generations of practitioners.

Ultimately, the conversation led to more consensus, such as the need to change the dominant white narrative so that the language used in higher education activities recognizes a human rights-based approach with multifaceted perspectives when it comes to the development of higher education activities. Various measures were discussed during the event to cultivate an awareness of positionality to prevent the recurrence of episodes of segregation, exploitation and human rights abuses. 

The conclusion was that it is most important to create a coalition of the willing. All of those who actively participate in this coalition need to exert soft but constant pressure whenever they interact with fractions of society more inclined to sympathize with anti-democratic positions. 

In the past year, the Legal Mobilization Platform has organized several events with its partners and other organizations. 

The Platform took on a primarily facilitating role in the organization of these events. Such an approach fits well with our aim to be a non-hierarchical connector. 

During Israeli Apartheid Week 2023, which is organized in March every year to draw attention to the apartheid system that Israel subjugates Palestinians to, Dutch Scholars for Palestine, the ISS and the Legal Mobilization Platform organized a panel titled ‘Resisting Settler Colonialism’ at ISS. 

The panellists discussed the ways in which citizens are both confronted with and are resisting a range of international crimes arising from Israel’s long-standing regime of settler-colonialism, as well as how the Palestinian struggle relates to other, intersectional struggles and forms of resistance. The intersectionality of struggles was specifically emphasized by the panellists from the climate movement and racial justice movement. 

A short podcast series was recorded based on this panel. 

On 17 May 2023, the Legal Mobilization Platform organized a hybrid workshop at the ISS in the Hague in collaboration with colleagues from the Tilburg Law School on the right to protest and the increasing undermining of this right both in the Netherlands and internationally. 

Academics from several universities in the Netherlands as well as activists from organizations that focus on the three themes the LMP centres in its work - climate justice, racial justice and socio-economic justice - were present at the workshop. 

We started the workshop by identifying challenges and opportunities around the right to protest. South African activist Jacob van Garderen subsequently gave a presentation about his involvement in the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network. After the presentation, we divided into smaller groups to discuss the different challenges and opportunities we had established earlier. 

One of the primary goals of this workshop was to establish what a conference about the right to protest and the challenges around it should look like. This was therefore also one of the discussion questions for each of the smaller groups. 

Based on the ideas, feedback and discussions from the workshop, we have now also organized a conference on the same topic.

In mid-June 2023, the Legal Mobilization Platform partnered with the Yemen Justice Network to host a meeting at the ISS.

 On the sidelines of the Second Yemen International Forum – the largest annual conference for Yemeni dialogue – the Legal Mobilization Platform hosted a convention that gathered Yemeni victims groups, civil society and international diplomats seeking to discuss matters of transitional justice in Yemen. ISS provided a safe environment for these relevant talks to take place. 

 The convention sought to hold participatory discussions on justice, memory, reconciliation and democratic participation that contribute to peacebuilding in Yemen. These Yemeni-Yemeni dialogues are intended to complement the UN-led formal peace process, creating and maintaining an inclusive platform for all stakeholders to collectively contribute to a Yemeni vision for the country.

At the end of October in 2023, the Legal Mobilization Platform, Dutch Scholars for Palestine and SCHOLAS (the student association at ISS) organized a book talk at the ISS with Dr Hil Aked, who had published their book, ‘Friends of Israel: The Backlash Against Palestine Solidarity’, earlier that year. 

Dr Dina Zbeidy, anthropologist and lecturer at the Leiden University of Applied Sciences, engaged in conversation with Dr Aked about the book, the pro-Israel lobby in the UK and other countries and the repression of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement. They also connected their talk to the recent atrocities that are being committed in Gaza by Israel. 

The talk was followed by an insightful Q&A and a book signing session. 

On 12 January 2024, the Legal Mobilization Platform with various LMP partners, including Al-Haq, and others within our broader network such as the Grotius Centrethe Center for Constitutional Rights and Addameer, organized a briefing about the case South Africa initiated before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of breaching the Genocide Convention. 

The event was held at the ISS and included academic and civil society speakers. The speakers specifically discussed the possible consequences of the case at the ICJ. 

On 25 January 2024, following the Protest Under Pressure workshop of the year before, the Legal Mobilization Platform and Tilburg University Law School organized a conference about the challenges around the right to protest and how to overcome these in the Netherlands and globally. 

The conference was held at Tilburg University and was financially supported by the Tilburg Law School, the Department of Public Law and Governance, the European Research Council project Translitigate, the ISS, the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Consortium and the Netherlands Network of Human Rights Research

The coordinator of the Legal Mobilization Platform has written a short preliminary report about the Protest Under Pressure conference.

From 20-22 February 2024, the Legal Mobilization Platform assisted with the organization of a multi-day workshop at the ISS for the Intersectional Rewrites project. This workshop was the first opportunity for authors and editors in the project to meet each other in person. It was specifically aimed at the authors giving feedback on each others’ draft rewrites. 

The workshop started with drinks on the evening of 20 February, when all participants arrived. 21 February consisted of a full day of workshop sessions. The workshop sessions were hybrid and were led by the peer reviewers of each rewrite. They were centred around constructive feedback and helped authors move forward with their writing. The day finished with drinks and a dinner. 

The last workshop day included a morning workshop sessions as well as a lunch to end the workshop together. 

The workshop was incredibly inspiring and the LMP team was very grateful to be part of it. 

Read and listen to our reports and podcasts.

Untold stories of occupied Palestine webinar series with UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese

Episode #1 - October 7: Terrorism or National Liberation Movement?

Episode #2 - Is it genocide?

Projects and events

Dialogics of Justice - Assessing recognition and reparation procedures for historical injustice (University for Humanistiek, NWO-Vici project). This 5-year project aims to respond to the urgent need for more in-depth knowledge of how accountability is sought for past (or ongoing) transgressions. Through this knowledge the researchers hope to contribute to making recognition and reparation procedures more effective and transformative. 

Translitigate Project (University of Tilburg, ERC Starting Grant project). This project proposes to develop a groundbreaking, explanatory model of transnational collaborations among strategic litigators which accounts for their modes of collaboration, how those collaborations affect their agency in controlling the issues in their respective fields, and how they negotiate complex ethical and professional challenges in their work.

Surfacing Systemic (In)justices: A Community View (Report of a Series of Roundtables). This project shares findings from an extensive Europe-wide consultation undertaken by Systemic Justice that seeks to learn from the perspectives and experiences of affected community groups and organizations, in order to inform potential litigation and other strategies for change.

The Right to Housing (Public Interest Litigation Project). Case study into the right to housing.

Partners of the Legal Mobilization Platform often organize events, including on urgent and sensitive topics. However, it should not be assumed that all partners necessarily share all views expressed at these events.

Organization and Collaboration

The LMP is a collaborative platform which is non-hierarchical in its decision-making processes, supported by:

  1. the Platform coordinator, Marthe Heringa, who recently finished her bachelors degree in International Studies at Leiden University and has now started the master International Crimes, Conflict and Criminology at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam. Marthe is based at International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague
  2. an Advisory board comprised of:
Jackie Dugard

Professor Jackie Dugard (South Africa)

Affiliate, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU School of Law; Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University; Founder and former director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute  of South Africa (SERI); Visiting Professor in Law at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa).

Miloon Kothari

Professor Miloon Kothari (India)

Former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing (2000-2008); President of UPR-Info; Commissioner (appointed in 2021) with the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel; Visiting professor at the Graduate Institute, Geneva.

Ambreena Manji

Professor Ambreena Manji (Kenya)

Professor of Land Law and Development, School of Law and Politics, University of Cardiff; Former director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) in Nairobi, Kenya (2010-14); Former President of the African Studies Association (2018-2020); Editor of African Affairs and Socio-Legal Studies: An International Journal.

Gloria Wekker 2022

Professor Gloria Wekker (The Netherlands)

Amnesty International Chair of Human Rights, University of Gent; Professor Emerita in Gender Studies, Utrecht University; Co-founder of De Zwarte Jacobines that produced De Zwart Manifest (Dutch only); Author (among many other publications) of White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race.

Consortium members

The Platform supports an interdisciplinary consortium, ensuring that the LMP incorporates the breadth of knowledge and diversity needed to address a wide range of challenges.

This list provides a list of consortium members with their contact details.

Still in the set-up stage, the network will be coordinated by Waruguru Gaitho, PhD candidate at Cambridge University and Thandiwe Matthews, joint PhD candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand and International Institute of Social Studies.

They will be reaching out to PhD and early career scholars asking whether you would like to be listed here and to participate in activities of the Legal Mobilization Platform.

Interested in participating in the Platform? Please reach out to us at: LMP@iss.nl

The work of the Platform is organized along:

  • Co-ordination and coherence: Running the LMP, ensuring that all projects address key analytical entry points
  • Analytical entry-points: Impact, legitimacy, rule of law certainty and – ultimately – radical equality / systemic justice
  • PhD projects: These scholars, who address different forms of legal mobilization in academic-societal partnerships will be supported through networks, workshops and mentorship
  • Impact accelerators: Specific actions and persons to ensure optimal impact, including thematic co-ordination, promotion of law clinics and clinic-based legal education, legal mobilization workshops and handbook
  • Societal partners: Both Dutch and international partners who have made in-kind co-funding contributions
  • Cooperation partners: Both Dutch and international partners who will make incidental contributions

Collaborate with us!

Email address
LMP@iss.nl

The LMP is open to collaboration with other international stakeholders, including academic institutes, and organizations involved in the practice of legal mobilization, including civil society organizations as well as local and national government departments.

Interested in becoming part of the LMP consortium? Complete this form

About the header image

Wittgenstein (1892) – Visualizing the interplay of law and politics to transition from conflict to cooperation. 'To persist in asking the question "but is the jurist or the politician right?" is like asking whether the image really is that of a rabbit or a duck. All depends on the background assumptions against which we examine the image, the vocabulary through which we try to grasp its meaning.' (Koskenniemi 2019:27)

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