Leveraging the SDGs for Inclusive Growth: Delivering Access to Justice for All

By: Open Society Foundations , OECD

Access to justice is integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inclusive growth. An estimated four billion people around the world live outside the protection of the law, mostly because they are poor or marginalized within their societies. They can be easily cheated by employers, driven from their land, preyed upon by the powerful and intimidated by violence. The lack of legal accountability allows local corruption to undermine economies, diverting resources from where they are needed the most. Lengthy delays in processing legal cases inhibit individual economic activity, while the inability to enforce contracts deters people from entering into them. Overcrowded prisons are full of poor people waiting months or even years for a first trial, forced to give up work opportunities and unable to support their families. Women, who often face multiple forms of discrimination, violence and sexual harassment, are particularly affected by legal exclusion. Addressing these legal challenges will be essential to enable the basic protection of human rights, from protection of property to legal identity and freedom from violence.

Legal empowerment—the ability of people to understand and use the law for themselves—enables even those who are most marginalized to achieve justice, meet their basic needs, hold authorities to account, protect their interests and participate in economic activities in an inclusive manner.