The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were transformational in their inclusion of justice issues alongside core development priorities. In SDG target 16.3 countries commit to make progress towards “ensur[ing] equal access to justice for all”. Enhancing access to civil justice is a key strategy to confront inequality, reduce poverty, improve local governance and secure meaningful development for marginalized groups.
But how is progress towards this ambitious target to be measured? The global indicators for SDG 16.3 currently only capture changes in the criminal justice systems – yet data shows that the vast majority of justice problems faced by most people are non-criminal. By focusing only on narrow elements of criminal justice, the SDG indicator framework does not address the most pressing, everyday civil justice needs that disproportionately affect the lives of the poor and marginalized – disputes around housing, employment, healthcare access, inheritance or business problems. Expanding access to justice for marginalized groups promises to unlock gains across a spectrum of other SDG targets from economic prosperity and biodiversity protection to access to education and health services. As the global community debates new and amended indicators for the SDGs, the measurement framework must incorporate access to civil justice in order to realize the ambition of the SDGs.
This session will show how legal needs methodologies are already being used in more than 100 countries. These tools measure the type of disputes that their people experience, the ways in which they seek resolution and the impacts of legal problems. By deploying household survey methods that capture people’s lived experiences, national and local governments have established rich datasets that draw connections between the legal dimensions of social problems. Such understanding is critical in meaningfully tailoring policy solutions to meet those needs, thereby delivering on their commitment to access to justice for all.
The OECD and Open Society Justice Initiative have partnered to build a body of evidence supporting the link between increased access to justice and economic growth. The OECD, OSJI and an advisory stream of statistical and planning agencies, academics and civil society groups have developed methodological guidance for how to incorporate legal needs methods into statistical systems. Beginning in 2017, the World Justice Project incorporated a legal needs module into their global polling to produce the first comparable global data set on access to civil justice across countries.