When is Law a Force for Progressive Social Change? Comparisons across Rural Brazil and the Philippines. Final Report, R7983.
The goal of this study was to identify when the rural poor are able to use state law, through the judicial system, as an instrument for progressive social change – that is, change that expands their opportunities for security, wealth, and voice. The study sought to (i) identify factors that enhance the legal capabilities of the rural poor and (ii) the conditions under which rural poor are able to use the legal system to claim constitutionally guaranteed rights or institutionalise interpretations of legal rules favourable to their interests – that is, to ‘make law.’ The project therefore explored a set of issues that are central to access to justice and other judicial sector reforms, as well as to achieving human development more generally. The study paid particular attention to efforts by different segments of the poor to use law to gain access to land ownership and to challenge violations of civil liberties, including the right to organise. The study included two years of fieldwork in eight rural municipalities of Brazil and the Philippines.