The World Justice Forum convened from April 29 – May 2, 2019 in The Hague under the theme Realizing Justice for All. On the opening day, the Pathfinders Task Force on Justice launched their new report – Justice for All – which provides the first estimate of the global justice gap and makes the case for putting people at the center of justice systems and justice at the heart of sustainable development.
The opening plenary featured grassroots justice defender, Walter Flores, who shared his experiences working to advance access to justice in Guatemala, highlighting the challenges grassroots justice defenders face in receiving financing and protection.
Past justice reforms have often focused on institutions that are distant from people and fail to serve their needs. This report represents a monumental step forward in the movement for legal empowerment its focus on a people-centered approach to justice. At the Forum, Elders member Hina Jilani spoke to the report’s emphasis on civil society in expanding access to justice, including the need for community paralegals. She called on governments around the world to take action to support civil society, including financing and legal recognition.
In the session focused on community paralegals – Frontline Justice Services Providers and Community Paralegals: Elevating the Voice of the Field – examples were given on how civil society can ensure paralegal recognition in different contexts. During this session, The Global Legal Empowerment Network launched a series of community paralegal briefs that review the nature of the work undertaken by community paralegals in different countries, and how that work has been recognized and funded by various governments.
A session on the Open Government Partnership featured ways in which legal empowerment organizations and grassroots justice groups are utilizing OGP National Action Plans to advance access to justice commitments. Network members from Sierra Leone, Indonesia, and Moldova shared their experiences.
The Forum also featured an in-depth discussion on engagement in the Voluntary National Review process and how legal empowerment organizations have been engaging in these processes on SDG16 implementation at the national level, and how they are planning to make the most of the SDG review process in the lead up to the High Level Political Forum in July.
There was also an important session on public financing for access to justice, which featured the recommendations from the Justice For All policy brief on how to get increased funding to grassroots organizations working to advance access to justice with local communities.
In the closing plenary, commitments to justice around the world were highlighted as an effort by the World Justice Project to show the growing momentum for the movement for justice for all. A “Commitment to Justice” is an announced plan to take specific concrete action to help address the justice gap, whether through financing, supporting capacity building, planning new data collection, or another action that drives forward access to justice. Showcasing new and existing commitments is an important way through which wins can be celebrated and other stakeholders can be spurred into action.