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Bush Justice in Bougainville: Mediating Change by Challenging the Custodianship of Custom

By: Naomi Johnstone, International Development Law Organization

This paper is part of a Working Paper Series “Enhancing Legal Empowerment: Working with Customary Justice Systems: Post-Conflict and Fragile States.” The paper originates from 2010 research conducted in Papua New Guinea to assess whether and to what extent dispute resolution training was successful in enhancing the legal empowerment of marginalized groups such as women. The research focused on six access to justice indicators: participation and satisfaction in dispute resolution; protection of legal rights; mitigation of power asymmetries; operation of neutrality and bias in decision-making; balance of individual and community rights; and the influence of women in dispute resolution decision-making. The intervention in Papua New Guinea highlights some of the key challenges and opportunities associated with this type of approach to advancing empowerment through customary justice systems.