Justice Action Update—December 2023
This edition of the Justice Action Update predominantly looks at two pivotal and interconnected moments for the Justice Action Coalition, namely the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July and the second SDG Summit and United Nations General Assembly in September.
The SDG Summit marked the midway point for the development agenda amidst a clear recognition that the SDGs were off track. “Currently, Goal 16 is one of the SDGs with the least amount of data,” and “[l]ittle progress has been achieved to date in ensuring justice for all. ” This makes the need to rely on data, to be innovative, to focus on what works to prevent and resolve people’s problems and to ultimately place people at the center of justice systems more important than ever before.
There were many noteworthy achievements by the Justice Action Coalition. The Coalition led from the front through countries and partners, highlighting good practices and commitments; publishing new and impactful data and evidence on access to justice in general and on transitional and customary and informal justice in particular; and renewing political commitment toward people-centered justice.
This fifth edition of the Justice Action Update highlights progress made and key takeaways from the Ministerial Meeting of the Justice Action Coalition, the HLPF and the SDG Summit. It places The Netherlands in the spotlight, highlights the work of the Young Justice Leaders, and much more!
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1. The Justice Action Coalition at HLPF ‘23
In the buildup to the HLPF and the second SDG Summit, the Justice Action Coalition held a Ministerial Meeting: Mid-way through the 2030 Agenda: Translating Ambitions into Actions through People-Centered Justice.
This meeting saw Justice Action Coalition countries and organizations demonstrate leadership by sharing and publishing Good Practices and Commitments on People-Centered Justice while inviting other countries and stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector, to join them in ensuring equal access to justice for all.
The Key Messages on People-Centered Justice were released on the sidelines of the HLPF. This toolkit, one of the Justice Action Coalition’s joint deliverables, is intended to align messages on people-centered justice and serve as an advocacy resource for policymakers, practitioners, and members of the Justice Action Coalition.
Also on the sidelines of the HLPF, a video entitled Justice Action Coalition — What’s Next? was released, showcasing progress made toward people-centered justice and making the case for renewed commitments and more ambitious action to close the justice gap.
The Justice Action Coalition took a proactive role in highlighting the importance of justice at key UN meetings and discussions on rule of law and justice. During the High-level debate of the United Nations General Assembly on “Equal Access to Justice for All: Advancing Reforms for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies on June 15, 2023,” a joint statement was delivered on behalf of Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Liberia, Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Sweden, and the United States — as members of the Justice Action Coalition.
The statement highlighted three key points:
- Access to justice is a critical enabler of the SDGs and sustainable peace;
- We need a shift to a people-centered approach; and
- This requires an evidence-based, innovative and whole-of-society effort.
In July, during the HLPF, Costa Rica delivered another joint statement on behalf of fourteen Justice Action Coalition countries reiterating three points:
- Equal access to justice for all is a critical enabler for sustainable development;
- To achieve this, we need a shift towards putting people at the center of justice systems; and
- Effective allocation of resources for justice reform is needed to pivot from rhetoric to action.
On July 12, the Permanent Missions to the UN of France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands together with HiiL, the Ibero-American Alliance for Access to Justice, IDLO, IDRC, ODI, OECD, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies, UNDP, USAID, and WJP hosted an event on justice data and evidence. The event brought together governments, civil society, justice practitioners, researchers and the donor community to discuss justice data gaps, challenges in data collection and the way forward.
At the event, partners presented some of the data and evidence produced as part of the Joint Deliverables of the Justice Action Coalition, including the preliminary findings of the Access to Justice SDG 16.3.3 Report, the Ibero-American Progress Report 2023, as well as the Justice Data Graphical Report, Part 1. Participants discussed the importance of data in closing the justice gap and reviewed the research gaps, challenges and solutions for creating a knowledge infrastructure to guide policy making.
On July 13, the Permanent Missions to the UN of France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with HiiL, Namati, ODI, the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies, UNDP, and USAID hosted an event on people-centered justice financing. The event brought together member states, justice practitioners, researchers, and justice donors to discuss what financing of people-centered justice looks like in practice.
The discussion focused on government and donor financing of people-centered justice and explored the need for a basic funding framework required for people-centered justice. Key areas of focus included the importance of evidence-based funding to plug the justice gap. This includes using data and evidence to ensure continued support for formal justice institutions while securing funding for community-level service delivery, data collection, and innovation to pivot to scalable solutions for closing the justice gap.
The Justice for Children working group organized a side event, “SDG16: Accelerating Progress to Achieve Justice for Children & North America Advisory Meeting for the World Congress on Justice With Children.” This event highlighted the potential of smarter financing to deliver change in the well-being of children and the societies in which they live.
2. The Justice Action Coalition at the SDG Summit
The second SDG Summit took place in New York City between September 18 and 19, marking the halfway point for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The summit was, amongst other things, an important moment for the Justice Action Coalition, as it paved the way for the permanent structure of the Justice Action Coalition, which was agreed to by countries at the Ministerial meeting in 2022.
During the second SDG Summit, a Joint Statement on behalf of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies delivered by H.E. Petr Pavel, President of the Czech Republic, noted the impactful work of the Justice Action Coalition stating that “The Coalition promotes people-centered justice at the international level and displays ambitious action in delivering people-centered justice at national levels, calling on justice actors across stakeholder groups, including Young Justice Leaders, to join in the quest to close the global justice gap. We cannot address poverty, the fallout from climate change, or conflict without ensuring equal access to justice for all.”
The Kingdom of the Netherlands, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, International IDEA, the TAP Network, and other Global SGD16+ Coalition partners, co-hosted an event on Delivering the SDGs through Peace, Justice, Inclusion and Strong Institutions, which brought over 100 participants together during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly.
Halfway through the 2030 Agenda, this high-level side-event presented an opportune moment to showcase some of the Justice Action Coalition’s Joint Deliverables and documentation, which included the Justice Data Graphical Report (Part 1), the Good Practices and Commitments on People-Centered Justice, and the Key Messages on People-Centered Justice.
H.E. Marcel de Vink, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of the Netherlands, opened the event by highlighting the importance of justice in achieving the SDGs and of cross-regional and multistakeholder partnerships such as the Justice Action Coalition, which “was born out of an urgent need to increase collaboration to close the justice gap.” He emphasized the commitment of the Coalition member states and partners to undertake “joint action to realize access to justice for all by 2030.”
The Working Group on Customary and Informal Justice (CIJ) and SDG16+ published a report entitled Diverse Pathways to People-Centered Justice as one of the Joint Deliverables of the Justice Action Coalition on the sidelines of the SDG Summit. The report highlights the importance of engaging with CIJ actors to ensure equal access to justice for all by 2030. The report was launched in October 2023 on the sidelines of the UN Sixth Committee meetings.
Also, on the sidelines of the SDG Summit, the much-anticipated 2023 Report of the Working Group on Transitional Justice and SDG16+ was released. Convened by the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Working Group brings together civil society, national governments, regional actors, and international organizations. The Working Group’s report is entitled, Toward Victim-Centered Change, Integrating Transitional Justice into Sustainable Peace and Development, and it is a joint deliverable of the Justice Action Coalition.
On September 19, HiiL, the UN Foundation and Pathfinders co-hosted a breakfast meeting sponsored by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It brought together key bilateral donors, philanthropies and International financial institutions like the World Bank to discuss how to mobilize collaboration and resources for people-centered justice. This discussion was held against the backdrop that people-centered justice is emerging as the most promising approach to achieving SDG16.3 on equal access to justice for all.
During the second half of the 2030 agenda and as it evolves into a permanent structure, the Justice Action Coalition will continue to seek the acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals by putting people and their needs at the center of justice.
3. The Young Justice Leaders
The energy and momentum of the Young Justice Leaders has not let up; if anything, it has increased! In June, Vino Lucero was invited to take part in the United Nations General Assembly high-level debate on the theme Equal Access to Justice for All: Advancing Reforms for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. In doing so, he highlighted ways we can leverage technology and the internet to ensure better access to justice for all while considering any socioeconomic and contextual drawbacks that may exist. He noted that as we maximize the internet for better access to justice, we must ensure the safety and protection of personal information, especially for survivors and members of at-risk communities.
In July, Kelechi Achinonu participated in a UN Foundation Q & A entitled, The Case for Financing People-Centered Justice. Amongst other noteworthy contributions, she noted that “Justice is at the core of every other sector, so I believe that in cases where leaders stop seeing justice as a sector that stands alone, but as a component that helps other sectors thrive, then there can be a case for justice.”
Leading up to the 2nd SDG Summit, the Working Group on Customary and Informal Justice (CIJ) and SDG16+ organized a series of stakeholder consultations to build consensus around the evidence base and key recommendations for policymakers and practitioners to be presented in its report. A consultation, co-convened by IDLO, Pathfinders, and the Young Justice Leaders represented by Cynthia Agnes Amoding, focused on the participation and leadership of young people in CIJ systems, ensuring that youth perspectives and priorities are reflected in the report and discussions at the launch and thereafter.
The Hague Justice Week 2023 saw lawyers, academics, students, Chief Justices from Africa, delegations from Asia and Latin America, and journalists from twelve countries gathered in The Hague to engage in meaningful conversations. It also saw Gülşen Güler and Kelechi Achinonu of the Young Justice Leaders participate in an intergenerational dialogue between one of the Justice Leaders, Sang-Hyun Song and Justice Gerald Ndika of the High Court of Tanzania. The dialogue presented unique, diverse and inclusive perspectives on impactful, innovative and people-centered approaches to justice. It was a space for young change-makers to exchange ideas with leaders of the justice sector, learn from their experience and share their own perspective, making a case for young people to be at the heart of the 2030 Agenda as drivers of change and progress.
The Young Justice Leaders also participated in the Hague Talks, an exciting format reflecting, widening and deepening debates around issues of peace and justice. HagueTalks Podcast is an interactive way to engage a rich variety of audiences. Gülşen spoke of the difference between justice data and data justice and why she believes “there is no justice without data justice,” while Kelechi shared insights into what people-centered justice means.
The OGP Regional Summit took place in Tallinn, Estonia, on September 6 and 7, and Agnes joined a panel discussion co-hosted by Justice Canada, IDRC, OGP, and Pathfinders. Representing the Young Justice Leaders at this panel, she laid out three requests on behalf of young people:
- Financially empower young people to implement the many strategies they envision;
- Refrain from tokenism and meaningfully include young people in various processes;
- Trust young people to be able to participate and contribute to all matters and not just seek their input on matters as they relate to young people.
Iliana Pujols took part in the popular criminal justice podcast Public Defenseless, hosted by Hunter Parnell. She compared and contrasted the youth criminal legal system where she works in Connecticut, USA, with that of Norway. In doing so, the episode discusses international good practices on youth justice and encourages cross-regional learning.
4. Country in the spotlight: The Netherlands
The Kingdom of the Netherlands has, for many years, been a strong supporter of the movement for people-centered justice starting with its leadership on the Task Force on Justice through Sigrid Kaag, former Minister for Foreign Trade and International Development Cooperation and co-chair of the Task Force on Justice.
“Access to justice is a responsibility of the state. And it needs many different players and actors to render justice truly effectively. People and justice need to go hand in hand.” –Sigrid Kaag, former Minister for Foreign Trade and International Development Cooperation
After the flagship Justice for All report was released by the Task Force, The Netherlands continued to support the movement through the creation and operationalization of the Justice Action Coalition. Their support has been both political and financial. The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of the leading funders of people-centered approaches to justice, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
However, this edition of the Justice Action Update places the Netherlands in the spotlight, not only for the important efforts globally but also for walking the talk domestically. With 5.1 billion people lacking meaningful access to justice globally, the justice gap is not only affecting low- and middle-income countries — it potentially affects every country in the world to varying degrees.
And particularly relevant in this regard is the national plan on strengthening access to justice presented earlier this year by the Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind, and the measures found in the Good Practices on People-Centered Justice. Measures such as the allocation of funds to encourage the use of mediation, restorative justice, and dispute committees, as well as the use of consultative approaches, which encompasses a diverse group of stakeholders, and the collection and reliance on data are all noteworthy interventions that align with the recommendations of the Justice for All report.
The Netherlands’ appreciation of the existence of the justice gap domestically and of the need to make efforts toward placing Dutch people at the center of the justice system sets a great example for other nations, especially as SDG target 16.3 on equal access to justice for all is often misperceived as a matter of foreign policy by high-income countries.
5. Reports, policy briefs, and other news
- The Justice Action Coalition published the compilation of Good Practices and Commitments on People-Centered Justice.
- Pathfinders and UNDP launched a toolkit of the Key Messages on People-Centered Justice developed jointly with key JAC partners as part of the Joint Deliverables of the Justice Action Coalition.
- The g7+, The Kingdom of the Netherlands and Pathfinders released a video: Justice Action Coalition — What’s Next? showing progress made on people-centered justice and making the case for renewed commitment.
- WJP released the Justice Data Graphical report, Part 1, a statistical analysis that seeks to support stakeholders operating on the global stage to continue making a case for people-centered justice as well as stakeholders at the country level to inform policy making.
- ICTJ released the 2023 report of the Working Group on Transitional Justice and SDG16+ entitled, Toward Victim-Centered Change, Integrating Transitional Justice into Sustainable Peace and Development.
- The Working Group on CIJ and SDG16+ published the Diverse Pathways to People-Centered Justice report highlighting key approaches to working with CIJ systems.
- The Justice for Children Working group launched the Building New Partnerships policy brief which outlines ‘ingredients’ for meaningful intergenerational and intersectional partnerships, and highlights promising practices.
- The Justice for Children Working group launched the Smarter Financing policy brief, which outlines rationales for smarter financing and highlights key attributes of smarter financing strategies.
- The Justice for Children Working group launched the Digital Justice policy brief which offers recommendations for policymakers and supporting bodies engaged in policy processes.
- Pathfinders and OECD produced the Joint Deliverable report: Improving the monitoring of SDG 16.3.3, Towards better access to justice.
Justice for All Fall Calendar ‘23–’24
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Have an event, report or activity related to people-centered justice that you would like to see featured in this newsletter? Contact: Themba.Mahleka@nyu.edu
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