PILIWAThe Public Interest Lawyering Initiative for West Africa (PILIWA) is a regional movement of lawyers driven by social justice to serve threatened communities.
- Convening an annual regional gathering of public interest lawyers.
- Giving grants to hire Legal Fellows and undertake courageous legal actions.
- Legal research and technical advice on strategic litigation.
- Solidarity and support to threatened members of the network.
Annual PILIWA Meeting
PILIWA is first and foremost a professional association – a community of like-minded legal practitioners and advocates who believe that law is meant to serve social justice and the public interest. At our annual gatherings, participants from the eight PILIWA countries learn about new topics in advocacy, international law, and litigation skills, share experiences, and make collaborative plans.
The inaugural PILIWA meeting, in 2016, was held in Monrovia, Liberia. Last year, we gathered in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
PILIWA has two grant programs for its members: Small Grants that jumpstart strategic litigation projects, and Legal Trainee Stipend Support Grants that assist members to hire new legal talent and recruit new lawyers into the practice of public interest law.
Through its Small Grants Program, PILIWA is funding cutting-edge legal work, including:
- Scientific research into the human health impacts of gas flaring in Nigeria and gold mining in Ghana
- Training and mobilization of a civil society response platform to fight cases of land grabbing in Niger
- Detailed land mapping and litigation over illegal expropriation in Liberia
- Fact-finding and case development related to a massacre in a mining town in Guinea
The two PILIWA Public Interest Legal Fellows for 2017-18 are:
- Daniel Fofanah, a graduate of Fourah Bay College Law School in Sierra Leone. Daniel is posted in Kono District with the Network Movement for Justice and Development, where he is helping them to design a legal program and prepare for strategic litigation in the mining sector.
- Owen Odion Agbonifo-Ezomo, an experienced Nigerian barrister and Ph.D. student in Public Law at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria. Owen is posted with Chima Williams & Associates in Benin City, Nigeria, where his principal responsibilities entail developing strategic litigation on behalf of tens of thousands of fishermen whose livelihoods were destroyed by a 2011 oil spill.
Technical Advice and Collaborations
PILIWA is supporting the Mano River Union Natural Resource Rights and Governance Platform to develop a regional litigation strategy to counter corporate influence over land and natural resources in West Africa. PILIWA members are collaborating on novel legal theories to hold states and economic actors accountable for human rights, land rights, and environmental abuse.
These collaborations have been supported by numerous external partners, including:
- The Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)
- La Clinique d’expertise juridique et sociale (CEJUS) at the University of Lomé in Togo
- The Seattle University School of Law International Human Rights Clinic
- The Sciences Po Law School Clinic in Paris, France
- HLS Advocates at Harvard Law School
- The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law
- Inclusive Development International
Solidarity and Support to Threatened Lawyers
When Alfred Brownell and his staff at Green Advocates International were threatened with wrongful arrest and detention by the Liberian government, the PILIWA network was part of the effort to protect them, raise awareness of their plight, and seek to have the charges against them overturned.
PILIWA has led the effort to protect Pastor Evaristus Nicholas, the spokesperson for Egbema Voice of Freedom, a community organizer who leads his people’s fight for justice in Aggah. Pastor Nicholas has been threatened on several occasions by people claiming to work for the oil company, NAOC.
PILIWA also provides funds that can be used in emergency situations for its members and other community rights defenders in the West African countries where we work.
Want to work with us?
We are building a regional professional community of lawyers.
We have an ecosystem of lawyers and other experts
who collaborate with communities to defend communities’ rights
and pursue their own vision of development