As part of the series of special seminars to celebrate our 25th anniversary year, the Centre for the Study of Democracy invites you to a talk by New York-based UN advisor, author, academic and activist, Naresh Singh who will discuss his new book Legal Rights of the Poor: Foundations of Inclusive and Sustainable Prosperity.


This is the target year (2015) for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when the International Development Community will assess progress made against poverty and hunger, education, health, gender equality and related basic human needs. It is also the year in which the so-called Post 2015 agenda will be agreed and a new set of goals the SDGs will be established. Consultations with more than a million people around the world have revealed that inequality, injustice, indignity, lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law need to feature prominently in the new post 2015 agenda. While we now have a lot of experience and have made some progress in the areas of basic human needs and sustainable development in general, we still have a far way to go in bridging the gaps in equality, justice, human rights and the rule of law.

To this end I have prepared a new book entitled Legal Rights of the Poor: Foundations of Inclusive and Sustainable Prosperity. The presentation will provide a summary of the main arguments of the book. After the introduction which links the main themes to the post 2015 agenda, a review of global poverty reduction initiatives over the last decades shows that legal rights has not been a significant part of that agenda. The reality is that the majority of poor and not so poor people live in informal and extralegal systems, many in slums, beyond the rule of national law. This is the reality in which the international development community will have to pursue goals related to injustice, indignity, human rights and the rule of law. The first questions to be answered will be: Are these people interested in living in the framework of the rule of law? Will they not be worse off? Do they trust the legal systems of their countries? Among the main themes of the book are how to implement a legal empowerment process, how to make power a positive sum game, the legal empowerment of poor girls and women and how to anchor legal rights in the sustainable livelihoods approach.


Dr Naresh Singh is currently an independent consultant in international development as well as Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Government and Public Policy at the OP Jindal Global University, Haryana, India. He is the former Executive Director of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and Hernando De Soto and was Principal Adviser on Poverty and Sustainable Livelihoods at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in New York. He was also acting Vice President and Director General at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Dr Singh holds an MSc from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi and a PhD from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He is widely published and has been visiting professor or scholar at several universities in Canada and the US including McGill, Waterloo and Harvard. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.