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. Further, identifying shortcomings of existing legal frameworks helps to understand where the law may need to be reformed or strengthened in order to promote (rather than undermine) these various forms of justice.

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?

Strengthening impactful, legitimate forms of legal mobilization in the fields of climate, racial and socioeconomic justice

Mobilizing the law can force key actors to comply with obligations towards climate justice, racial justice and socioeconomic justice, and to identify and correct normative gaps and flaws in legal systems. Aimed at challenging existing power structures, it is often met with fierce resistance.

Legal mobilization therefore requires deliberate, strategic, bold and innovative approaches.

    Why a Legal Mobilization Platform?

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

    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.

    Levi Meir Clancy

    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 and administered jointly with colleagues at the Amsterdam Law School at the University of Amsterdam.

    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.

    What the Platform 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

    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, Rana Kuseyri (Research LLM student at Utrecht University, intern at the Public Interest Litigation Project and student researcher at Systemic Justice), who is based at International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague
    2. a steering committee consisting of Dr Jeff Handmaker (coordinator of the Legal Mobilization project at ISS) and Dr Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh (Coordinator of the Climate Justice through the Courts project, Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University)
    3. 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.

    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. Members of the consortium include both academics and societal partners and include:

    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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