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Briefing Paper: Strengthening Access to Civil Justice with Legal Needs Surveys

By: Open Society Foundations

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identify access to justice as a target for realizing inclusive and sustainable development. Expanding access to civil justice is a key strategy to confront inequality, reduce poverty, improve local governance, and secure meaningful development for marginalized groups. However, access to civil justice is not included as an indicator in global efforts to monitor the progress of the SDGs.

By focusing only on narrow elements of criminal justice, the SDG indicator framework risks overlooking the pressing, everyday civil justice needs that disproportionately affect the lives of the poor and marginalized. As the global community now examines the possibility of new and amended indicators for the SDGs, the measurement framework must incorporate access to civil justice in order to realize the ambition of the SDGs. The first step toward effective access to justice is identifying needs; doing so can inform government investment in basic justice services and strengthen delivery of other public services. But many countries face difficulties with even assessing the unmet legal needs of poor and vulnerable populations. Better civil justice data enables more targeted justice services, improves delivery of other public services, and enhances performance of the justice system as a whole.

Including core legal needs questions in existing national household surveys, such as those focusing on living standards, health and/or governance, can effectively capture this dimension. These efforts are essential for understanding and responding to the demands of marginalized communities, whose legal needs are too often ignored.

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Uploaded on: Apr 13, 2018
Year Published: 2018
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