International Development Law Organization

Consultation on Customary and Informal Justice Systems

26 Jun 2019

Achieving Justice For All

Recurring estimates show that globally, more than 80% of legal disputes are resolved outside of the formal courts through customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems. The vast majority of these justice seekers are women, poor people, minority groups and marginalized communities. While widespread and critically important to many individuals and communities, CIJ systems are often left out of discussions held at the international level.

In 2019, IDLO launched global consultations on CIJ with the aim of advancing policy dialogue and distilling lessons from programming and research to make justice accessible for all. As part of the global consultations, a series of events, workshops and roundtable discussions were organized with international, justice sector and civil society partners, as well as diplomatic missions and academic institutions. In addition, an online survey sought to collect views from a diverse set of stakeholders around the world.

CIJ systems carry many benefits, including affordability, flexibility, speed and cultural relevancy. They tend to be more accessible compared to the formal justice sector – especially to vulnerable and marginalized populations – and enjoy high levels of trust within communities. At the same time, it is well recognized that CIJ systems are deeply rooted in cultural, traditional or religious norms that are not always in line with international standards of human rights and some national constitutions.

IDLO’s dialogue with stakeholders throughout 2019 confirmed that enhancing access to equitable and quality justice for all will only become viable if we recognize that the state is not the sole justice provider. It is crucial to engage with and strengthen the variety of justice actors and mechanisms used by individuals, particularly for those who are marginalized, to resolve their disputes through context-specific, inclusive and innovative ways. As the international community races to realize the 2030 Agenda, continuing the conversation around CIJ systems – their value added, tensions and complexities – will be critical to ensuring no one is left behind.

2019 Global Consultations on Customary and Informal Justice Systems

4 February: The Hague

Publication launch and dialogue, Customary and Informal Justice Systems: Navigating Complex Pathways Towards Justice for All

15 March: New York

Side event at CSW63Women and Customary and Informal Justice Systems

28 May: Rome

Side event at the Global Conference on SDG 16Leaving No One Behind: Engaging with Customary and Informal Justice Systems to Provide Justice for All

16 September - 27 October: Global

Public survey, Online consultation on customary and informal justice systems

17 September: Geneva

Panel discussion organized by the International Commission of Jurists and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Indigenous Justice and Human Rights

9 October: The Hague

RoundtableEngaging with Informal Systems to Enhance Justice for Women

10 October: New York

Public dialogue organized by Cordaid and the Overseas Development Institute, Customary and Informal Justice Providers Accelerating Achievement of SDG 16

17 October: Geneva

Roundtable and public event organized with the Graduate Institute’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, Customary and Informal Justice Systems: Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice for All


IDLO's Publications on Customary and Informal Justice

The consultations were backed by a series of publications, Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice, that draw heavily on IDLO’s research and programs as well as the experience of others. The first two publications – a Policy and Issue Brief providing policy recommendations, and a Practitioner Brief giving practical entry points for development practitioners – highlight the importance of understanding the context in which such systems operate, with the aim of improving justice outcomes and delivery for end users. The third, to be published in 2020, focuses on women and CIJ. 

A series of publications titled “Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems” seeks to advance policy dialogue and distil lessons from programming and research, to help realize Sustainable Development Goal 16. This Policy and Issue Brief presents...
This Practitioner Brief offers a set of concrete tools, recommendations and good practices to support engagement with customary and informal justice systems...


Public Survey

Thank you for participating in our online survey! The findings will be made available shortly.