Opening Justice: Access to justice, open judiciaries, and legal empowerment through the Open Government Partnership

By: Peter Chapman, Sandra Elena, Surya Khanna, Open Government Partnership staff

This collaborative guide is a collection of resources for reformers interested in advancing open government and expanding justice. It lays out model commitments, provides a state of play on the growth of the topic in Open Government Partnership, and collects resources (partners, “how-to”s, and defines terminology).

From the overview:

The Open Government Partnership provides a great opportunity to join reformers from government and civil society in working toward progress. While justice has always been a key part of our work, there is growing momentum to link justice with open government. This is driven by governments, civil society leaders, and multilateral organizations. On the international level, there has been a commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 16, which seeks “Peaceful and Just Societies” and “equal access to justice for all.” Access to justice and legal empowerment enable people and communities to advance their rights, push for legal and regulatory protection, shed light on corrupt practices and effectively participate in governance processes.

Importantly, change agents at all levels of society are working to promote access to justice. These actors have their roots in different constituencies, from judicial institutions to labor and environmental movements. Consequently, they can have both shared and varying goals. They have constituents, and strategies. What unites them is the recognition that the law and legal processes are fundamental to guaranteeing open government.

At this moment in OGP’s evolution, justice merits greater attention. Justice institutions and community-level legal assistance play a pivotal role in translating open government commitments to concrete reform. While the number of justice commitments in OGP action plans continues to grow, there are still too few justice-related commitments overall. Where commitments exist, many of them are potentially high-impact, but in the aggregate, those commitments could achieve an even higher level of relevance to each country’s national challenges. Consequently, as an international partnership, we seek to support commitments that open justice systems, strengthen community engagement, and secure justice.

We welcome the diverse interest in access to justice, legal empowerment and open justice across the OGP community represented by the growing number of commitments and the contributions of the authors in this paper.

To help support the dialogue and mutual support between different communities of practice, we offer a furtive, if crude, typology of approaches to open government and justice. We hope it will lower barriers to entry for those who are new to the issue of access to justice by explaining some of the more technical terminology. Further, we hope it will help those already active in the field to better understand complimentary actors, identify common goals, divide labor efficiently, and coordinate strategies at a national and global level.