Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

Bridging the justice gap: Listen to justice seekers

16 oct 2019

“As the Knowledge Platform launches its Annual Conference to discuss gaps in power, partnerships, learning, innovation, rhetoric and practice, IDLO sees an opportunity to build bridges to close the access to justice gap which deprives millions of women and marginalized people from sustainable development,” stated IDLO’s Director-General Irene Khan at the opening session of the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law Annual Conference.

A consortium partner of the Platform, IDLO participated in the event held on October 10, 2019 in The Hague, where practitioners, researchers, policymakers, government representatives, activists and journalists convened for cutting-edge knowledge exchanges around security, justice and the rule of law sectors.  

Discussions under this year’s theme, ‘Bridging the gap’, kicked off with a dialogue between Ms. Khan and Dr. Priscilla Schwartz, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Sierra Leone, during the keynote plenary session.

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda put forth Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that need to be universally aspired to and applied. “We now have SDGs that are equally applicable to the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone alike,” highlighted Ms. Khan, referencing the home countries of the two speakers and the host country of the Conference.

However, many believe the international community is not on track to achieve SDG 16 by 2030. Several gaps were identified at the recent SDG Summit in New York, the three main areas being data, financing and implementation.

“There is a huge gap between the justice people need and the justice they receive,” remarked Dr. Schwartz.

Questions now focus on how to close the global justice gap. The dialogue emphasized local ownership, women’s professional participation in the justice sector and customary and informal systems as means to furthering access to justice, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

“The inclusion of informal justice systems is key,” continued Dr. Schwartz, as the dialogue elaborated on ways to reconcile informal mechanisms with the formal justice sector and to distinguish between helpful and harmful practices.  

Without addressing these aspects, the consequences are dire: over five billion people are estimated to lack meaningful resolution to their legal issues, and unresolved disputes can cost countries between 1 and 3 per cent of GDP.

How, then, should the rule of law community navigate the many nuances and ensure the aspirations of SDG 16 are realized? Ms. Khan concluded: “Listen to the justice seekers.” 


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