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Diverse pathways to justice for all: supporting everyday justice providers to achieve SDG 16.3

Research reports

Written by Lisa Denney, Ed Laws

The global justice community is stepping up efforts to achieve justice for all by 2030 – the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet its efforts to do so risk overlooking the diverse ways in which the majority of people resolve disputes and seek redress. This is especially true in fragile and conflict-affected contexts but also in middle- and high-income countries where indigenous peoples are calling for recognition of their own legal institutions.

This paper draws attention to the fundamental role played by everyday justice providers – the array of providers that people regularly rely on to resolve disputes and seek redress. Everyday justice providers span statutory legal systems in some contexts, customary or religious leaders, community associations, paralegals and community-based dispute resolution services in others. 

This is not to suggest that everyday justice providers are unproblematic. All justice providers – in statutory legal systems or more broadly – are steeped in prevailing political, social and economic dynamics, and carry with them inequalities and biases. This shapes how justice is delivered, and it is precisely these factors that make improving justice outcomes so challenging. Everyday justice providers present no lesser and no greater a challenge than courts, judges and lawyers (with which international justice assistance is accustomed to working).

This paper aims to shift SDG 16.3 debates toward recognition of more diverse pathways to justice that reflect the ways in which people seek to resolve disputes and grievances. In order to do so, it sets out:

▪ methods for bringing everyday justice providers to light to inform planning of justice support programmes

▪ entry points to engage with everyday justice providers

▪ what it takes for international organisations to work with everyday justice providers.

Lisa Denney and Ed Laws