Fellow Since 2008
Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej
This profile was prepared when Witold Klaus was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Witold has established a legal services center to combat discrimination against Poland’s marginalized groups. The first public interest organization of its kind in Poland, the center offers legal counsel to individual clients, but more importantly, it is building a body of needed interventions to change public and social policy so that all people in Poland can enjoy full citizenship. Initially focused on immigrants, refugees, and foster children, Witold’s Association for Legal Intervention is also distinctive in its work to educate and train public officials responsible for administering Poland’s laws to do so in a way more favorable to the disempowered. Like many minority and disempowered groups around the world, those in Poland often view law as a mechanism that confines and restricts rights rather than enhances them. Even those rights protected on paper may not be protected in practice due to misinformation or outright discrimination. Witold’s legal services center provides rights education and legal counsel to marginalized groups; carefully analyzes individual cases to identify commonalities and systemic sources of discrimination; brings together judges and other public officials to explore and introduce new legal tools to promote rights; and advocates for changes in legislation. Through its dozens of case studies and extensive research, the Association for Legal Intervention (ALI) has developed a more comprehensive understanding of legal exclusion and discrimination in Poland, and is now helping coordinate the activities of various institutions serving a similar purpose so that together they can be more successful in eliminating the legal discrimination of disadvantaged groups. Since 2005, Witold and his association have achieved a number of legal changes, have worked with hundreds of public officials, and have set a new standard of legal counseling in Poland.