While showing steady progress, the formal justice system in Somalia remains fragile. Somalis continue to use traditional dispute resolution (TDR) mechanisms to resolve conflicts in their communities due to their physical accessibility, low cost and legitimacy in the eyes of local participants. The TDR system has the potential to improve access to justice in Somalia, but at the same time informal justice can reinforce forms of discrimination and support practices that do not comply with international human rights standards.
Customary and Informal Justice
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. 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.
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. The consultations were backed by a series of publications titled “Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems”.
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.
IDLO's Publications on Customary and Informal Justice:
As the World Bank’s annual meeting on Land and Poverty got underway in Washington DC, representatives of governments, civil society, academia, the development community and private sector discussed land policy, challenges, and the latest research on land governance
In June 2015, IDLO commenced the project: Researching the Impact of Land Tenure Registration on Land Disputes and Women’s Land Rights in Burundi.
Land Tenure Registration (LTR) programs involve issuing proof of ownership to holders of land rights to increase their legal certainty. Such programs are undertaken for a variety of reasons. While much is known about the impact of LTR on factors like access to credit and agricultural output, there is a gap in knowledge of its impact on land disputes, particularly in post-conflict settings.
Mali’s crisis of 2012-2013, in which two-thirds of the country was occupied by Tuareg rebels and Islamic extremists, was accompanied by brutal rule in the North and a near-collapse of the state. Many victims have yet to see redress for the abuses they suffered; justice remains elusive.
IDLO Somalia Country Director Adam-Shirwa Jama told a Washington roundtable hosted by the United States Institute of Peace that reform of the justice system had begun in Somalia. While it would take time for justice institutions to reach the whole of the country, Mr. Jama said, IDLO was encouraged by the international support given to these nascent institutions.
IDLO is hosting a customary justice workshop in Mogadishu this week in conjunction with the Somali Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Taking part are elders from four districts of Somalia.
IDLO has been working with the European Union’s EUROsociAL program to provide assistance and support to Peru’s indigenous communities. Partnering with the Peruvian Ministry of Justice and judiciary, IDLO has helped create a model for legal orientation and institutional coordination on intercultural justice in the district of San Martín. The intervention sought to strengthen orientation services and legal aid, establishing a model for intercultural justice.
Evaluation of the project "Strengthening Linkages Between Formal Justice System and Traditional Dispute Resolution System to Improve Access to Justice - Phase II"As part of IDLO’s continuous commitment to accountability and results-based management, IDLO is pleased to share this Evaluation Brief for the project, "Strengthening Linkages Between Formal Justice System and Traditional Dispute Resolution System to Improve Access to Justice - Phase II". The evaluation has been conducted by independent evaluation experts, supervised by IDLO’s Evaluation Unit.