Three NGOs in Bangladesh, Colombia and Lebanon Jointly Awarded 2020 Tang Prize in Rule of Law

TAIPEI, TAIWAN – Media OutReach – 21 June 2020 – Three NGOs were named joint
winners of the 2020 Tang Prize in Rule of Law, “for their efforts in furthering
the rule of law and its institutions through education and advocacy. Utilizing
innovative strategic litigation, informed by rigorous scholarship, these
organizations have shown exemplary perseverance in promoting greater
individual, social and environmental justice, in milieus where the foundations
of the rule of law are under severe challenge.” For the first time since its
establishment in 2012, the Tang Prize was awarded to organizations. It is a
decision the significance of which cannot be underestimated.  

The three new Tang Prize laureates are:
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (hereafter “BELA”) from
Bangladesh, Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society (hereafter
“Dejusticia”) from Colombia, and The Legal Agenda from Lebanon. They share
four key features. First of all, they are under the conditions where the
foundations of the rule of law are under great challenges; secondly, they are
committed to promoting, to improving and to furthering the rule of law and its
institutions; thirdly, they utilize strategic litigations that are based on
solid academic research, pushing for governmental actions to serve the law’s
purpose to protect; finally, they are all dedicated to advancing the general
public’s understanding of the rule of law through education and advocacy,
pushing forward the idea that everyone can contribute to the realization of the
rule of law.     


Established in 1992, BELA works under adverse
conditions where poor environmental quality and governmental corruptions
continue to ravage the country. While the general public reflects a distrust of
legal authorities, BELA promotes the rule of law and environmental justice through
public interest litigations, legislative advocacy, research and publication, as
well as capacity-building for actors both in the public sector and civil
society. Their innovative approaches to the Bangladesh Constitution has enabled
them to interlink environmental pollutions with the threats to people’s
well-being. By successfully persuaded the domestic courts to recognize its
legal standings on behalf of the people afflicted by environmental degradation,
BELA established the path for public interest litigations in Bangladesh. Its
initiative has a far-reaching effect of setting a goal for other social
activists in Bangladesh to strive for.   

Ever since the first public interest
litigation in 1994, BELA has conducted more than 250 public interest lawsuits
and advocated for legislative reform for environmental justice. Issues drawn
within its ambit ranged as widely as river pollution, industrial pollution,
vehicular pollution, illegal construction, labor welfare, illegal mining,
reduction of plastic use, wetland protection and prevention of pollution from


In 2017, BELA filed a petition with evidence
and argued that pollution and encroachment of the canals are the main causes of
the growing water logging problem in the capital Dhaka. As a consequence, the
Supreme Court of Bangladesh ordered the government to submit a plan for the
recovery and restoration of Dhaka’s 50 canals. Furthermore, the Court issued a
rule stipulating that the respondent authorities should explain their inaction to
protect the canals. It has since become a classic case in Bangladesh legal

Founded in 2005, Dejusticia is a
Colombian-based research and advocacy organization with most members being
leading legal scholars and practitioners on human rights, constitutional law
and transitional justice. Though situated in a country haunted by a tumultuous
past and plagued by various contemporary struggles, Dejusticia firmly believes
that academic research can substantively contribute to social justice and lead
to social reform. Through campaigning, publishing and litigating persistently,
they have devoted great effort to safeguard human rights, notably filing and
winning landmark cases concerning sensitive issues such as anti-discrimination
(race and gender), the rights of indigenous people and refugees, as well as
environmental degradation.  

Dejusticia had famously supported a group of
25 young plaintiffs in their lawsuit against the Colombian government, in which
the Organization argued that the ongoing deforestation in the Amazon has
violated the youths’ constitutional rights. In 2018, Colombian Supreme Court
recognized the Amazon as an entity subject of rights, and subsequently ruled
that the government bears the obligation to protect, conserve and restore the
Amazon. Therefore, the government should take urgent action to stem the forest
degradation caused by illegal logging. Failing to do so is tantamount to an
infringement of the Amazon’s rights and the right to a healthy environment of
both present and future generations in Colombia. Through litigations,
Dejusticia laid bare the impacts of deforestation in Colombia has on climate
change, as well as its close connection to people’s entitled rights to life and
health. The winning verdict ultimately set the legal precedent in Latin


Since its establishment in 2009, The Legal
Agenda has managed to operate against the backdrop of an influx of refugees,
corruption and the public’s pervasive distrust of the judicial organs. The
Organization has successfully strengthened judicial independence and the rule
of law in Lebanon through a multidisciplinary approach that is built on
researching and monitoring the judiciary; helping in forming a club for judges
to consolidate their independence from political interference; preparing a
draft law for the independence of the judiciary and building support for it;
promoting social debates and public support for judicial independence. The
Legal Agenda intends to transform the general public’s opinion from being
skeptical of the justice system to being willing to pursue legal avenues to
defend the rights of their own and others’. In doing so, The Legal Agenda
focuses on helping the people become more receptive to the process of
capacity-building on legal knowledge, a process which can sharpen the public
awareness of using legal means to change the Arab societies and to improve the
people’s living standards. 


In addition, The Legal Agenda spoke up for
marginalized groups and achieved major legal precedents in order to advance the
legal protection for migrant workers, refugees, the LGBT community, and the
families of the victims of forced disappearance. To broaden the public’s
knowledge of the rule of law and strengthen their legal defense, The Legal
Agenda also developed model defenses as guidelines when it comes to vulnerable
groups’ vindication. Its pioneering approach has expanded beyond Lebanon to
other Arab countries, notably in Tunisia where it has set up an office.  


by Taiwanese entrepreneur Dr. Samuel Yin, the biannual Tang Prize consists of
four categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science,
Sinology and Rule of Law, with NT$ 40 million (approx. US$1.3 million) in cash
prize and a research grant of NT$ 10 million (approx. US$ 0.33 million)
allocated to each category. It aims to promote the interaction and cooperation
between culture and technology so as to find a 21st century path to
the sustainable development of the world. For more information, please visit
the prize’s official website at

News Source: MediaOutreach



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