Commitments to Further Action: Justice for All by 2030


This week policy makers working for equal access to justice in OECD countries will meet in Lisbon for an important policy round table. Last year’s Riga statement expressed the urgency to address the justice gap. Building on this resolve, representatives come to Lisbon to share what their countries do to realize justice for all and how they will step up their game with new strategies and actions in the next four years.

In Lisbon, the OECD will launch its report on people-centered justice services and present their work on making the case for justice for all. The white paper Building a Business Case for Access to Justice sets out the burden and distribution of injustice and the costs of lack of access to justice to individuals and societies.

The Policy Round Table is one of a series of global events that make 2019 the year of justice, where different people, countries and organizations make commitments to further action to realize justice for all by 2030, ahead of the High-level Political Forum and the SDG Summit.

Building on the Riga Statement

Worldwide, 1.5 billion people cannot obtain justice for everyday civil, administrative, or criminal justice problems. Their legal needs go unmet because of barriers they cannot overcome or structural injustices they face.

People need to be able to resolve their legal problems. That was agreed in July 2018 when OECD countries met in Riga, Latvia for the Policy Round Table on Access to Justice. The Riga statement also underscores that access to justice is central to unlocking opportunities for more inclusive and sustainable development.

We must step up action. The need for more concerted action to provide justice for all was central to the Riga statement and OECD member states identified target 16.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals as a unique opportunity to accelerate action to ensure equal access to justice for all by 2030.

2019: the year of justice

Building on the momentum sparked in Riga, a group of countries and organizations are working together to make justice a key priority in 2019:

  • An unprecedented gathering of justice leaders in The Hague in February, around the meeting of the Pathfinders’ Task Force on Justice, marked the beginning of the year of justice.
  • More than 20 ministers participated in ministerial meetings in The Hague in February and committed to take concrete steps to promote access to justice and convince others to do the same. They adopted the Hague Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030.
  • A new global report on justice for women, presented during CSW in March in New York, calls for urgent measures to close the justice gap for women. The report identifies promising approaches and supporting strategies to increase justice for women.
  • The OECD Policy Round Table on Access to Justice in March in Lisbon provides an opportunity to develop commitments and exchange on what works to deliver on SDG 16.3.
  • The World Justice Forum in April in The Hague will focus on spurring action and generating commitments by a wide range of organizations and institutions. At the forum, the Task Force on Justice will launch its final report.
  • At the OGP Summit in Ottawa in May, countries will be encouraged to include commitments on open justice, legal empowerment and access to justice in their national action plans.
  • The UNDP Rule of Law days in New York in July will bring together national and international experts working for justice, including in the context of conflict prevention and fragility.

The opportunity

Agenda 2030 calls for intensive global engagement in support of implementation of all the goals and targets, bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors and mobilizing all available resources.

The 2019 High-level Political Forum from 8–18 July is the final ministerial review of the first four-yearly cycle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The first week of the HLPF will include a debate on SDG16, with ministers and other senior contributors reporting on and discussing results and announcing further action.

The first SDG Summit on 24 and 25 September will be held during the high-level week that marks the opening of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. The world’s leaders will come to New York where they are asked to “mobilize further actions to accelerate implementation.”

The UN is expected to issue a call for accelerator commitments soon. Member states are currently debating the best way to set up a global SDG registry of voluntary commitments.

A new vision of people-centered justice

What then, should commitments focus on? Countries and organizations are converging around the new vision of people-centered justice. The ministerial meeting in The Hague adopted the Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030, which emphasized the need to:

  • Put people and their legal needs at the center of justice systems. Understand what people need and want when they seek justice, the obstacles they face, and the kind of justice they receive.
  • Solve justice problems. Transform justice institutions and services by broadening the range of justice providers, using high-tech as well as low-tech innovative solutions, based on data, evidence and learning, while taking into account the specifics of each context.
  • Improve the quality of justice journeys. Empower people to understand, use and shape the law, while offering them fair informal and formal justice processes that meet their needs in terms of both procedures and outcomes.
  • Use justice for prevention. Make use of mediation and other methods to prevent disputes from escalating; address legacies of human rights violations; and invest in justice systems that are trustworthy and legitimate.
  • Provide people with means to access services and opportunities. Break down the legal, administrative, and practical barriers that people face to obtain documents, access public services, and participate fully in society and the economy, while promoting gender equality.

From vision to action: commitments on justice

Commitments are ambitions for the future and contain concrete, solution-focused actions from governments and other actors. Credible commitments need to be backed up by strategies, plans and funding. They need to trigger new actions or an intensification of efforts, but they need not be new ideas or approaches. Good commitments build on and intensify strategies that work.

Actions to accelerate delivery of equal access to justice can include:

  • Implementing strategies and initiatives that will bridge the justice gap, resolve people’s justice problems and focus on prevention, including for vulnerable groups.
  • Increasing justice financing and better allocating existing resources centered on affordable solutions.
  • Creating new partnerships that open up the justice sector and bring together people and organizations around a common purpose and objective.
  • Investing in better justice data and evidence and using these to drive strategies and implementation, including to anticipate and prevent legal problems and develop tailored, timely and appropriate responses.
  • Promoting international cooperation on access to justice that supports national priorities and promotes innovation.

In Riga last year, OECD countries called for concerted action at the local, national and global level to achieve equal access to justice for all.

The Policy Round Table in Lisbon will allow OECD member states and partner countries to identify actions that accelerate implementation of this goal and translate these into national commitments to justice for all.



Maaike de Langen
Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

Working for people-centered justice and a responsive rule of law, writing and thinking about a better UN, hopeful multilateralism and everything ombuds.