2021 GC Review

2021 Global Citizenship Review

What's inside

Highlights from our Global Pro Bono Practice and volunteering activities

A message from our Chair

Hugh Verrier

Hugh Verrier

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021 we worked with many of the world’s leading non-governmental organizations to help address a wide range of environmental and social challenges. Our capabilities and global network give us the opportunity and responsibility to do pro bono work that only a firm like ours can undertake.

Research by our lawyers on environmental law in each of the 193 UN Member States will inform the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2022 Environmental Rule of Law Report. We also assisted Conservation International on an innovative way to generate carbon credits through improved forest management across a large area of the Amazon forest.

Two major court victories in 2021 helped advance the rights of children. In a victory at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, our lawyers helped win justice for the families of children killed in a fire at a juvenile detention center and improve conditions for all detainees. Our lawyers also helped win a US$4.2 billion pre-trial settlement with New York State to honor its commitment to phase in full funding for all school districts in the state. 

This review reports on our pro bono work on these and other issues, such as balancing human rights while countering terrorism, protecting the rights of the media, protesters and police during protests, and helping refugees navigate complex legal processes.

Progress and setbacks exist in tandem in worldwide efforts to protect both people and planet. Through our Global Pro Bono Practice, we seek to do our part as lawyers to address the challenges of our time.

Hugh Verrier, Chair

Environmental stewardship

Our pro bono work continued to support important environmental advances

The role of law in protecting the environment

Our research on 193 countries informs the UNEP 2022 Environmental Rule of Law Report

Two walruses seen in profile sitting with their backs against each other on ice floating off the coast of Norway.
Andy Mann © Bespoke Reps

Carbon credits at scale

Structuring sustainable forestry projects to reduce emissions and drive investment

View from the base of the forest floor of foliage, large intertwining tree trunks and a glimpse of sky in the Amazon forest in the Madidi National Park, Bolivia.
Toniflap © Adobestock

Advancing human rights

Highlights include a major education funding victory and advice on balancing human rights while countering terrorism

Immigration navigation

Pursuing justice for immigrants in the UK

Family portraits hung on a wall in a Jamaican home in London in pastel frames with distinctive flower designs like those profiled by photographer Jim Grover in his 2018 exhibit "Windrush: Portrait of a Generation."
© Jim Grover

Balancing security and human rights 

Informing a response to the EU by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism 

A close-up of hands holding a mobile phone with the screen displaying the image of a fingerprint as the person uploads their biometric data in the form of their fingerprint.
Jason Lee © Reuters

The rights of children

Boosting the foundations of children’s rights

Afghan refugee girls in colorful headscarves seen from above as they kneel on blankets holding small personal chalk tablets while attending school in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Muhammed Muheisen © Bespoke Reps

Funding matters

A landmark US$4.2 billion settlement on education funding in New York State

Close-up of the hands and arms of two young elementary school students who are lying together on the floor and reading a book that is on the floor in front of them.
FatCamera © Getty Images

Voting rights vs. realities

Breaking down barriers for American voters

Voting rights activists during a rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC hold up large individual orange letters emblazoned with light bulbs that spell out the words Freedom to Vote.
Jose Luis Magana © Associated Press

Justice system reform

Our lawyers worked on a wide range of issues, including protections during protests and compensation for victims

Protected protest

Legal analysis to protect the rights of media, protesters and law enforcement in the US, Africa and Latin America

A journalist holding a TV camera on his right shoulder faces a police officer seen from behind while a protest is going on in the back.  The journalist is reminding the officer that the press are considered "essential workers" in regard to curfews related to protests.
Wong Maye-E © Associated Press

A 15-year journey for justice

Victory at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for victims’ families and detained children

The white, arched paneled ceiling of the Hall of Heroes at the headquarters of the Organization of American States lined with the flags of the Member States.
Juan Manuel Herrera © OAS/OEA

Creating competition

Bringing the Jessup alive online in 2021

Jessup competition
© White & Case

About pro bono

We are one of the world’s largest providers of pro bono legal services

Pro bono hours and participation

113,110 pro bono hours in 2021

100k+ pro bono hours for the 5th consecutive year
100% of our offices and practices do pro bono work

170 partners and counsel serve as pro bono leaders
50+ associates and legal staff serve as pro bono champions


Office highlights

Pro bono matters from each of our offices

Colorfully striped hot-air balloons float over snow-covered rock formations called fairy chimneys in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.
Anadolu Agency © Getty Images

Learn more

For more information about our commitment and activities, please visit our Global Citizenship web pages.

A close-up of hands holding a mobile phone with the screen displaying the image of a fingerprint as the person uploads their biometric data in the form of their fingerprint.

Balancing security and human rights

Informing a response to the EU by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism 


3 min read

In 2020, the European Commission proposed a package of anti-terrorism measures, including a proposal to amend the European Union’s counter-terrorism regulation titled “A Counter-Terrorism Agenda for the EU: Anticipate, Prevent, Protect, Respond.” The proposed regulation is extensive and focuses in part on how Europol engages with private parties and collects and processes personal data. 

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, has a specific mandate to examine the way in which counter-terrorism measures since the September 11, 2001 attacks may distort the rule of law, governance and human rights practices, at both regional and national levels, and provide a response to each proposal. The EU is an international leader in both counter-terrorism and human rights and, with 27 states, any new legislation has far-reaching consequences, often setting international precedent. Therefore, careful examination and analysis of the proposed measures in the context of human rights was necessary to support the Special Rapporteur in her response to the EU.

Human rights advocacy group The Advocates for Human Rights asked White & Case to help inform the Special Rapporteur’s response to the EU by preparing a comprehensive memo on general human rights concerns identified in the proposed legislation. 

For example, the proposed legislation lays out the ways in which biometric data can be collected, stored and used, as well as the use of artificial intelligence. Our analysis therefore touched on multiple human rights issues including the right to privacy, freedom of movement, right to association and the collection and retention of personal data. 

Professor Ní Aoláin explained, “The existence of terrorism or violence in any society is complex, and poor counter-terrorism law can be counter-productive. It is in the interest of states to legislate in ways that do not exacerbate the conditions that produce violence, such as by stigmatizing or targeting certain groups. States also have a legal obligation to meet the requirements of international human rights treaties to which they are signatories.” 

Madrid partner Yoko Takagi led a diverse legal team of 11 from offices in Europe. “Ultimately, this project is about believing in and understanding the importance of the rule of law,” says Yoko. “We reviewed the new counter-terrorism proposals presented by the European Commission and provided comments raising human rights concerns on the basis that security and human rights are not competing aspects that may mutually exclude each other.” 

The formal response provided to the EU by the Special Rapporteur in October 2021 was based on and drew extensively from the legal memo provided by the White & Case team. Professor Ní Aoláin’s response highlighted the ways in which the Agenda could impact human rights including freedom of association, freedom of expression and opinion, and privacy rights, as well as how it might impinge upon the rights of minorities through the use of biased technology. In particular, the response raised concerns about internet content monitoring, the use of AI and the mass collection and sharing of data. 

The EU is set to issue a formal response, which will be followed by ongoing engagement and dialogue. “We all have the same objectives—to ensure that states can manage their genuine security and terrorism risks but within the context of a free society that is compliant with international human rights,” concluded Professor Ní Aoláin. 

Photo by Jason Lee © REUTERS
A phone using biometric technology for ID fingerprint recognition.

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