German Sarmiento

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1995


This profile was prepared when German Sarmiento was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Germán Sarmiento is a pioneer in the field of law that is devoted to defense of the public interest. At the heart of his work is the creation of a new type of professional in Colombia and throughout Latin America: the public interest lawyer. His focus within the broad arena of the public interest has been on the concept of collective rights, where he has originated strategies that assist lawyers to litigate precedent-setting cases and move governance forward on issues that affect entire communities. He is making it possible for the legal system to implement the concept of collective rights through the discovery, creation, and operation of legal instruments that allow any citizen to defend these rights.
Applicable in a number of ways, this approach is especially important in protecting the interests of indigenous communities and for environmental protection, where it is used to enable citizens to seek indemnification for collective environmental damages. Thanks to the work of Germán Sarmiento, and other public interest lawyers like Ashoka Fellows Carmenza Morales and Diana Pombo, judges are not only beginning to grant individual compensations but are halting environmentally unsound practices in the interests of affected communities.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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