Beginning in the early 1990s, Africa in general and the Greater Horn in particular, have been experiencing a major ground swell of social, economic, cultural and political changes. While the movement towards fundamental political change is remarkable, there are certain formidable challenges that will make the transition to a stable, democratic and pluralist system of governance very difficult. The cultural, historical, political and socioeconomic conditions of this troubled region are not simply too conducive to the emergence of strong democratic polity. This is indeed the context within which the legal empowerment of the poor has to be recognized. It is difficult to anticipate and legal protection of rights when from Darfur to Northern Uganda, from the Red Sea to the banks of the Zaire; genocidal marauders go left unchecked by the international community.
An array of declarations, communiqués and action programmers’, notwithstanding, the human development crisis and progress towards pluralism and the rule of law continues unabated. Massive militarization and persistent armed conflicts, economic crisis manifested by absolute poverty and a vicious socio-political environment, has rendered societies and polities one of the tragic scenes of present day human crisis, rendering whole populations chronically dependent on international food aid charity.
The High Level Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor (HLCLEP) has been set-up as yet another attempt in the evolution of centers of excellence that seek to augur on new policy and strategic trajectories to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a more radical way. Its core mission to “secure, enforceable property and labour rights, within an enabling environment that expands legal business opportunity and access to justice” is yet a novel attempt at bringing in marked changes in the fulfillment of sustainable livelihoods: a set of normative goals and an integrative concept which aims simultaneously to maintain or enhance resource productivity, secure their ownership of and access to assets, resources and income earning activities, and ensure adequate stocks and flows of goods and services.
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