12 July 2013, Dhaka. BRAC, the global development organisation founded in Bangladesh in 1972, received the World Justice Project Rule of Law Award at the fourth World Justice Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. The Rule of Law Award recognises BRAC for its efforts to promote legal empowerment of the poor as a means to end poverty.
The World Justice Forum is a global gathering hosted by the World Justice Project, an organisation dedicated to advancing the rule of law worldwide. BRAC was awarded in the organisation category alongside Ms Shirin Ebadi, in the individual category, for her relentless struggle to uphold the rule of law in Iran. Faustina Pereira, director of BRAC’s human rights and legal services (HRLS) programme, accepted the award on behalf of BRAC.
She said, “This award recognises BRAC’s approach to a ‘whole person development’. This view underscores the need to go beyond economic development, and places it hand in hand with social and legal empowerment. This award is recognition of the hard and dedicated work of all BRAC’s grassroots workers, particularly its 12,000 barefoot lawyers, its hitherto unsung heroes.”
BRAC’s HRLS programme is the world’s largest nongovernmental legal services programme. Through a cadre of ‘barefoot lawyers’, it empowers the poor by informing them of their legal rights and delivering legal services to the doorsteps of millions. A version of the programme is also active in Sierra Leone.
This recognition comes soon after the awarding of BRAC’s founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, of the Open Society Prize from Central European University, which was founded by the philanthropist George Soros. Soros and Abed have collaborated on advocacy and interventions to promote legal empowerment of the poor. “A legally empowered citizenry is both the guarantor and lifeblood of democracy,” Soros and Abed wrote in a jointly authored comment in Financial Times last year. “Poverty will only be defeated when the law works for everyone.”