Accelerating the implementation of SDG16: Countries taking action for Justice for All
On 4 December, UN Conference Room 6 was packed with people who came to hear what countries are doing to accelerate action for Justice for All. The Permanent Mission of Georgia organized the event, jointly with the Missions of the Republic of Korea, Argentina and Sierra Leone, all four countries are Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies.
Anthony Triolo, who recently joined the Pathfinders team to work on accelerating justice action reports on the discussion.
Ambassador Kaha Imnadze from Georgia opened the panel by calling attention to the global justice gap with over 5.1 billion people deprived of justice — as estimated in the Justice for All Report. With two-thirds of the world’s population lacking meaningful access to justice, he emphasized both the foundational nature and the universality of SDG16. He linked access to justice to the successful implementation of the broader development agenda.
“How can we attain any of the targets in the 2030 agenda if there is no access to justice?”
Mr. Sanikidze from the Public Service Development Agency within the Ministry of Justice of Georgia presented key reforms the Georgian government has undertaken to increase justice for all, and in particular justice for children. Georgia recently adopted a new juvenile justice code, which focuses on rehabilitation and the best interest of the child. The code has significantly reduced the number of children behind bars and brought the reoffending rate down to 9%.
“Professionals felt ownership and worked together to achieve results, which was crucial to the success in implementing the new juvenile justice code.”
Ambassador Cho Hyun from the Republic of Korea said in his country increasing levels of access to justice have gone hand-in-hand with the democratization process over the past decades. Ambassador Hyun shared that the Korean Legal Aid Corporation has resolved over 90 million cases since its inception in 1987. He also noted certain challenges such as inequality in the provision of justice and the need for reform in the justice sector.
“Democratization and access to justice for all are mutually reinforcing.”
Ambassador Alie Kabba of Sierra Leone indicated that Sierra Leone views implementation of SDG 16, especially target 16.3 on access to justice for all as an accelerator of development.
The government has made justice a cornerstone of its national development strategy. Its priorities are: facilitating a national dialogue on justice, training paralegals, strengthening the Legal Aid Board and a dialogue with the Sierra Leone Bar Association to improve justice service delivery.
“Income, social disparity and geographical location result in disparity in access to justice. We are working to ensure that citizens are treated equally regardless of their status in society.”
Ambassador Martin Garcia Moritan from Argentina spoke about the Justice for All Report. In order to close the justice gap, he said, we have to challenge basic assumptions about the core functions of the justice system. We have to improve justice services so that the justice needs of people are met. Argentina has created over 90 access to justice centers around the country, including in remote areas.
“We need to place justice at the heart of sustainable development, put people at the center of justice systems, and move from justice for the few to justice for all.”
Maaike de Langen, of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies said that with the Justice for All Report, we have global data on the justice gap, the beginnings of a quantitative case for investment, and we have identified approaches that work to resolve and prevent people’s justice problems.
“The next four years we need to focus on accelerating national action, aligning international support and strengthening the movement for justice.”
Alejandro Alvarez, of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the UN, emphasized the importance of accelerating delivery of SDG targets for Justice for All at the national level, particularly for those furthest behind.
“With the call for a Decade of Action by the Secretary-General and the launch of the SDG Action Platform in 2020, it is imperative that all stakeholders — governments, civil society, the private sector and others– commit to taking ambitious and transformative action to close the justice gap and leave no-one behind.”
Justice for All in today’s world
The speakers then drew from these concrete examples of people-centered justice at the national level, to place access to justice in the context of broader global trends. The emergence of popular uprisings and protests around the world are connected to the injustice people experience, their perceptions of inequality and how states and communities have responded to or ignored people’s justice problems. For this reason, we need to understand the justice problems people face, and tailor interventions to address their concerns.
There was agreement in the room that if we are to keep the fabric of society intact, it is imperative that we close the justice gap and ensure justice for all. In the coming years we need to accelerate the implementation of SDG16 and this is why so many countries are taking action for justice for all in the context of the 2030 agenda.