Over the last two years more than 300 organizations in the Global Legal Empowerment Network have campaigned for justice targets to be included in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their advocacy has been at both the international and the national level, with high-level political meetings, OpEds, open letters, campaign days and media events pushing the case for justice in the future of the development framework.

Network members and campaigners have identified five measurable priorities: access to legal services; access to information; participation in the delivery of basic services; legal identity; and rights to land and property.

The campaign has borne fruit. Repeatedly, drafts of the planned SDGs have included targets for justice and one specific goal, Goal 16, which recognises the need to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’.

Yet targets for justice and the rule of raw were dropped from the Millennium Development Goals at the last stages of the negotiations, and the case for justice in the new SDGs still needs to be made. With this in mind, members of the legal empowerment network undertook to show how the actual implementation of Goal 16’s targets would look at the national level – which is where the attention will shift following the SDG declaration in September 2015.

The Global Legal Empowerment Network and Namati have supported major National Justice 2015 meetings in three countries – Kenya, Jordan and The Philippines. Together they illustrate different approaches to making the justice targets a reality in contrasting political and legal contexts. While there are initial promising outcomes, much more support will be required to ensure this success translates into long term sustained action.

This briefing paper: Emerging Trends in National Implementation of SDG Goal 16 and Justice Targets, is being presented to UN delegates today, June 25 2015, at a side-event to the UN negotiations in New York entitled: Building the Sustainable Development Agenda into National Planning and Review Mechanisms.

Civil society justice organizations can learn from these three meetings how to begin the process of implementing the justice targets in the SDGs – and ensuring they have a voice in the level ambition that their governments undertake to achieve.

Most significantly of all, the three countries, Kenya, Jordan and The Philippines illustrate how the presence of Goal 16 in draft form has already prompted government, civil society and others to come together to grasp a generational opportunity to deliver justice for all.

National Justice 2015 Case Studies

Kenya – Integrating Goal 16 into existing legislation and reprioritizing the legislative agenda

Organized in partnership with the legal empowerment and access to justice NGO, Kituo cha Sheria, the International Commission of Jurists Kenya and the Law Society of Kenya, the National Justice 2015 meeting had an ambitious agenda. It was looking create an action plan for improved national justice that would cover: access to legal services; access to information; legal participation in the delivery of basic services; legal identity; rights to land and property; and the role of justice and legal empowerment in increasing security in Kenya. This meeting took place in the aftermath of the attacks in Garissa and within Kenya there was a renewed interest for how justice sector reforms could increase security. Those who attended the meeting were keen to ensure that the attacks did not allow for kneejerk policies to be passed which would hinder the rights of citizens and their ability to access justice. As Goal 16 covers justice, peace and security, it provided the necessary framework to discuss these issues in tandem.

Over the course of two days the Kenyan Parliamentary Human Rights Association, the Attorney General, Chief Justice and Human Rights Commission listened to and discussed at length justice issues being faced in Kenya.

Initially, civil society had proposed a new, standalone, Justice Plan to incorporate the SDG justice targets and existing National Justice Priorities. Government stressed such a policy could take several years and suggested instead that civil society and government work together on existing legislation that could be revised and passed quickly. The National Human Rights Policy and Action Plan was agreed as the obvious legislation to tackle. This Policy has been in draft form since 2008, and participants saw the opportunity to use the momentum of the SDGs to bring this policy to the top of the legislative agenda.

The passing of this legislation would push forward related including: the Legal Aid Bill; Right To Information Bill; and Community Land Bill.

In addition, the National Human Rights Policy already has many relevant national indicators to track progress – however they only included data gathered by the National Statistics office. Civil society argued that perception and third party data should be included. The Human Rights Commission agreed.

In the short period since the meeting the National Legal Aid Bill has moved into the next stage of law making, and is set to be finalized before the end of this sitting of parliament.

Philippines – Integrating Goal 16 into the new Philippine Development Plan through participatory policy making

Organized in partnership with the Alternative Law Group (ALG), an umbrella organization of legal empowerment organizations, in collaboration with the National Anti-Poverty Council (NAPC), this one day meeting brought together over 60 participants from across all regions of the Philippines to discuss how Goal 16 can be integrated into the planning and formulation of the next Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2016-2022. Alongside civil society, the NAPC, the National Economic and Development Agency (NEDA), The Philippine Statistics Authority, members of the Judiciary and the Attorney General were present, as were representatives from what are known in the Philippines as the 14 ‘basic sectors’ who represent the needs of groups in the Philippines (including for example, women, children, indigenous people, etc.)

Participants agreed that there is currently a ‘justice deficiency’ in the Philippines and that the forthcoming PDP must contain a new justice section with integrated SDG goals and targets integrated. The government and civil society agreed to work in partnership to develop this section with both sides stressing this must happen prior to the presidential elections next year to ensure timely national implementation of the SDGs. To begin this process, countrywide consultations with citizens will be held and a structure for consultations produced by July 2015.

Including justice in the PDP will also ensure that justice is recognized as an essential tool for inclusive growth and development. This reframing of justice will allow for additional funding for the justice sector including through increased national budget allocation and from international donors.

Jordan – A new Arab approach: government and civil society use Goal 16 to begin a dialogue on advancing justice across the region

With the support of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal and the West Asian and North African Institute the National Justice 2015 Meeting brought together government, civil society, multilateral agencies, academia and regional participants from Palestine and Lebanon. This meeting represented the first of its kind in Jordan in bringing together these stakeholders to have honest and open dialogue on justice and SDG Implementation. Goal 16 provided the rationale for kicking off these discussions with the hope being that this is the first of several dialogues between different stakeholders that will drive forward justice within Jordan and across the Arab region.

Participants recognized that the SDGs represent an opportunity to reposition justice in West Asian and North African states. HRH called on States to develop authentic solutions that take into account a balanced strengthening of justice sector institutions at the governmental and non-governmental levels. The areas that were of most interest and discussed in depth included: inclusive growth; stability and good governance; 
 security and countering violent extremism. 
Following the meeting a research agenda has been developed to look specifically at how a regional approach to implementation of the SDGS can tackle these three areas.

In Jordan, the meeting began the dialogue on using the SDGs to assist the adoption of national legal aid. It also highlighted that even in contexts where justice and legal empowerment are at an early stage of development, the SDGs and Goal 16 shift the discourse and have justice viewed as a nationally owned priority, not an imposition placed on to the region.

Emerging Trends

  • Goal 16 as opportunity: the MDG experience demonstrated that internationally agreed goals translate into focused attention. From these pilots we have seen how Goal 16 has provided context to push forward justice issues at a national level. Civil society in Jordan highlighted that being able to speak frankly on the rule of law and justice in a public forum, with senior government representatives, for the first time.
  • Bridging the Gap between New York and Capital
s: in all three countries basic knowledge of the SDGs is still low. Participants stressed the need for basic SDG literacy and welcomed the knowledge shared in these meetings. They also stressed the need to ensure that the agenda does not become a ‘club for the few’.
  • National Leadership: implementing the SDGs necessitates political will, leadership and long term planning. In Kenya and the Philippines this leadership came from civil society who found champions within government to collaborate with, while in Jordan a more top down approach used HRHs Prince Hassan’s standing and commitment to legal empowerment to drive forward the agenda.
  • National Ownership: all stressed the need to align the SDGs with existing processes and policy formulations. This may mean taking a staggered approach to implementation rather than sector-wide implementation.
  • Partnership and Participation: Attendance included representatives from across the different arms of government, the judiciary, national lawmakers, civil society, academia, bureaucrats, statisticians, private sector, religious leaders and Royals. Being able to brand the SDGs as a shared agenda has proven incredibly useful in framing why these stakeholders must work in partnership to drive forward justice.
  • Relevant National Indicators and Data: Better and more integrated data is needed to allow for better planning and policy making across the justice sector. Real and existing challenges still remain for setting national indicators and tracking the data – a skills transfer from other governments and data experts will often be necessary.
  • Funding and Technical Transfer: Central to all of these meetings was concerns around funding. Funding, capacity building, technology and technical transfers will serve as important carrots for driving forward justice for all. National governments need to ensure sufficient budgets are allocated to justice.
  • Regional Approaches: Each meeting stressed the importance of region-wide implementation. This would serve cross-border security issues and well as helping sustain regional economic growth.


The National Justice 2015 meetings highlighted the appetite and ambition that exists within government and civil society to move forward on justice and legal empowerment. The SDGs are a generational moment that organizations and government departments working on justice and legal empowerment must capitalize on, to support their advocacy efforts and where possible to forge partnerships between civil society and government in policy formation, implementation and accountability.

Read the full briefing paper: Emerging Trends in National Implementation of SDG Goal 16 and Justice Targets




Notable Replies

  1. @paulmccann That’s a big victory but the challenge is now how to bring the larger community to come on board to contribute to the discussion on the measurement of the goal 16 and the coming up with the national action plan. The struggle continues…

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