Updated: Jan 21, 2022
Have you heard anyone talking about justice recently? We certainly have.
Movements around the world have been calling for justice for decades, centuries sometimes. But talk of justice has usually been reserved for radicals, activists, and those on the margins of society. Perhaps, at last, that is starting to change.
We are increasingly hearing calls for climate justice, racial justice, gender justice, economic justice, and much, much more. These growing movements are led by those most affected by the oppression and destruction they seek to end. And while at first farmers in India, queer young people in Ghana, and indigenous climate activists don't seem to have a lot in common, their struggles are deeply connected and intertwined in their struggles against the same systems -- systems that were not only designed to ignore their needs but to crush dissent.
Activists and social change professionals are being brought together around the globe through the realization that they are all calling for the same thing -- Justice.
When we developed the Justice Based Approach back in 2017, we were committed to challenging the silent world of NGOs to go deeper and look at the systemic causes of injustice that they so rarely tackle head-on. We used to joke that we wanted NGOs to act more like activists and activists to act more like NGOs. From the start, we wanted to convene those working for change on the ground and recenter the story of our work onto justice -- taking the radical intentions of the rights-based movement of the 1990s and reenergizing them by recognizing how injustice today is a product of injustice in the past and in turn will lead to the injustice of the future. Also recognizing that rights-based approaches fundamentally lack the accountability mechanisms needed to make them effective.
As a justice narrative is shifting into the mainstream, the same development, humanitarian, and conservation organizations that have forever been complicit in perpetuating oppressive systems like patriarchy, white supremacy, unfettered capitalism, and colonialism are now starting to talk about justice.
For us, it's super exciting to hear news outlets, collectives, movements, NGOs, and businesses talking about justice. It's even more exciting to witness the budding solidarity at the intersection of different types of oppression and destruction because of the shared goal of justice.
But while organizations start to throw the word 'justice' into their strategies, programs, and proposals, we cannot neglect the fact that words are empty unless we have a shared understanding of what they mean. In the 2000s this happened with the word 'participation' until it became essentially meaningless.
It's true that philosophers have been trying to define justice for thousands of years, so it may not seem like an easy task, but we at United Edge feel like we have something that can get us started. It's called the Justice Based Approach.
We know that justice isn't just about law, enforcement, and accountability. We know that there's more to justice than using the lens of oppression in our work. We know that it has to be more than just ideas and theory. Justice is active. We know that it is more than just power, ownership, and decision-making. We know that tangible models of justice already exist around the world for us to learn from.
The word is not enough. We have to uncover what justice is all about. And while it may not be perfect and may evolve over time, the Justice Based Approach is our first attempt at creating a lens that helps us to get on the same page when we talk about justice.
Whether you are working on environmental justice, health justice, racial justice, legal justice, social justice... you're working on Justice.
We invite you to join us for the ride. Join our upcoming course on the Justice Based Approach. Subscribe to our updates. Be part of the movement. JBA isn't about having all the answers. It's about asking the right questions.