Summary of HIIL Report: Towards Basic Justice Care for Everyone

I have recently announced the publication of HiiL's recent Report: Towards Basic Justice Care for Everyone, and have been meaning to summarize its findings (some which might run counter to the conservative legal tradition). This report was in part based on a meeting in The Hague on 16 and 17 April on the topic, that we attended. Summary follows (asie from the summary, you should read the report for highlights of some innovative approaches, that interestingly are not expensive) :
  • Many people are without access to justice: Legal needs studies conducted in 25 countries, combined with data from other research enable a very rough estimate of the worldwide access to justice gap and what can be realistically achieved. According to these rough estimates, each year around 200 million people suffer unnecessarily from problems that can be solved and 100 million more from problems that can be settled or decided more fairly. That is a lot of injustice. If the access to justice setting were benign, as shown by the best performing countries, between 40%-60% of unsolved LEGAL problems could be addressed and solved. Moreover, the fairness of processes and solutions could be raised substantially. Such an access to justice gap exists for a majority of the people in the world, perhaps even as many as two thirds.
  • Lack of access to justice leads to many other problems:  Each conflict not dealt with in a fair way comes with stress for the people involved, health problems, a risk of escalation, disturbed relationships, a lack of trust,or harm that remains unaddressed. Economic costs are high. They manifest themselves as lower production, lower investments, and lost opportunities to improve livelihoods and government services. In addition, sustained feelings of injustice can eventually lead to violence.
  • What can we do?
    • Support Negotiation and Adjudication: We now have the knowledge and means to go after injustice more  systematically. Research shows most conflicts are solved by direct negotiation between the parties. When dealing with crimes, intensive communication with each person involved is needed as well. Improving these interactions is key. In the vast majority of cases, access to justice is a matter of organizing a way for the parties to interact, to listen to each other and explore good solutions, to decide on distributive (win-lose) issues using norms, to address a third party for a decision if necessary and to comply with the outcome.   
    • Advocate for better Access to Justice Policies: In the past, reformers have concentrated on improving laws and court procedures, and monitoring human rights. Lately, there has been a shift towards providing better legal information, simple conciliation procedures (mediation, other alternative dispute resolution), and new forms of legal aid. At the beginning of the 21st century, these efforts have been a moderate success. Some of these policies did not work as well as expected. 
    • Ensure a good supply of legal service providers by addressing barriers and encouraging innovation by : Current culture and rules create barriers for innovation by legal professionals, and even higher ones for outsiders wanting to introduce innovative forms of solving justiciable problems.  
  • Some Promising Strategies: 
    • Specialization: Specialized courts and specialized legal services tend to be much more effective than general  processes for criminal or civil law problems. 
    • Legal Information Targeted on Needs: Traditionally, legal information is made available through laws and through court decisions. Right now, legal information policies are one of the highest priorities in the of legal empowerment paradigm, because better information improves bargaining positions. Legal information is most useful if it is understandable, tailored to the problem at hand, and arrives just in time.
    • IT Platforms Supporting Negotiation and Litigation: Resolving conflicts and structuring relationships is basically a matter of exchanging information. This flow of information can be supported by forms and standard documents that ask the right questions. IT platforms now supply tools for assembling legal documents to millions of clients. Websites supporting on line mediation and negotiation are becoming available. 
    • Facilitators and Paralegals :Many people rely on customary justice processes, informal interventions by local leaders, and similar arrangements in neighbourhoods in cities.  Programmes with paralegals, facilitators or barefoot lawyers are now among the most  popular methods to increase access to justice in developing countries. 
    • Choice of Third Party Adjudication Processes: If a court procedure takes three years and costs a fortune, the option of adjudication is not effective. A far less costly way to enhance access to justice is to create alternative adjudication mechanisms. 
    • Using Reputation to Induce Compliance: Research shows, however, that compliance can also be enhanced by increasing procedural justice, through greater participation in negotiated outcomes, integration of obligations on both sides in the solution, and by using the incentives of a good reputation. Websites and other modern media now play a role here, but informal justice mechanisms, with their local roots, can also expose misbehavior or insufficient efforts to reach a good solution.
    • Sharing Practices, Evidence Based Protocols: As we have seen in health care, services can reach a higher level of quality level if information about the best treatments is made available to general practitioners working in a local context. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice and very informative. I am studying this problem and I must say that your article has helped me a lot.