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Domestic financing for justice: who spends most on justice?

Briefing/policy paper

Written by Clare Manuel, Marcus Manuel, Stephanie Manea, Darshni Nagaria

Image credit:NomeVisualizzato / Pixabay

Key messages

  • Universal access to people-centred justice needs appropriate financing from domestic resources, and in the case of the poorest countries, additional funding from donors.
  • This first analysis of global levels of domestic spend on justice reveals that poorer countries spend a higher proportion of their revenues on justice than OECD countries do. On average, this proportion is 72% higher. It is unrealistic to expect these poorer countries to increase their share of spend on justice, given the demands of other sectors such as health and education.
  • At current levels of spend, OECD and upper middle-income countries can easily afford the full costs of a universal basic justice system in their own countries. If they are not providing access to people-centred justice for all, then the issue is about prioritisation of funding.
  • Current spend on justice by lower middle-income countries does not cover the full costs of a basic system. But these countries have scope to increase their taxes and could then cover the full costs.
  • In contrast, low-income countries cannot afford even half the costs of a basic justice system, even if they increased taxes by the maximum possible. These countries’ inability to provide a basic justice system is not due to their failure to prioritise the justice sector. Rather, it is a direct result of their poverty.
  • Donors seeking to support universal access to people-centred justice should: seek to target justice aid on low-income countries; avoid supporting justice interventions that may be effective in delivering people-centred justice, but which have unsustainable unit costs; fund core service provision; and gather and share information on successful low-cost people-centred justice interventions that have the potential to be taken to scale.

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