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Access to justice

To achieve the SDGs, leaders must deliver Access to Justice For All

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Photo: Women's Justice Initiative

Ahead of the High Level Political Forum in July, where countries will report on their progress on SDG 16, The Elders launch a call on leaders to show greater commitment to providing access to justice.

The Elders are calling on countries to:

  • Invest in legal empowerment initiatives and grassroots justice providers

  • Increase funding for access to justice for women

  • Prioritise funding for civil justice as well as criminal justice

Justice is a fundamental human value. Yet over 5 billion people do not have meaningful access to it. This is an injustice that should shame as all.  

All countries committed to ensuring equal access to justice when world leaders came together to agree the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. Despite this, donor funding for access to justice has dropped by 40% in the past four years.

SDG 16, which includes a provision on access to justice, offers a unique opportunity to boost the provision of accessible justice services, but only if the necessary political will and resources are mobilised.

It is clear that without access to justice, it will be impossible to deliver the wider SDG commitments and to build a more prosperous, peaceful and equitable world.

Indeed, five billion people – two-thirds of the world’s population – do not have meaningful access to justice, according to the recent Task Force on Justice Report. Mary Robinson lamented the rising justice gap following the launch of the report: “the fact that the justice gap has risen by a further one billion people [since 2008] is a damning indictment of our global political and legal system”.

Too often access to justice is considered almost exclusively in the context of the courtroom, whereas in fact, access to justice influences almost every aspect of a person’s life. It means having your voice heard, exercising your rights, challenging discrimination and holding decision-makers accountable.


The Elders’ call to action

In July 2019, States will review their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York. For the first time, progress on SDG 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels) will be reviewed.

This presents a major opportunity for States to increase ambition on achieving equal access to justice for all.

Ahead of this, our Chair Mary Robinson has written to key Heads of State, welcoming their participation in the voluntary national review process, acknowledging the progress made (including by their endorsement of the Hague Declaration on Equal Access to Justice For All by 2030) and urging increased ambition.

Over the coming month, The Elders will promote elements of this digital diplomacy effort on Twitter. Follow our progress @theElders and share our tweets if you believe that leaders should fulfil their SDG promises and ensure equal access to justice for all by 2030.

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