Blog May 9, 2023

Justice Action Update—May 2023

  • Justice
  • Justice Action Coalition

Between 29 and 30 March, the United States, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Zambia co-hosted the second Summit for Democracy. The summit focused on challenges and opportunities facing democracies and provided a platform for leaders to make both individual and collective commitments to defend democracy around the world.

Notably, the summit’s Rule of Law and People-Centered Justice Cohort facilitated key connections and collaboration with the Justice Action Coalition. As a result, more countries endorsed the 2023 Justice Appeal, and Kosovo and the United States officially became members of the Justice Action Coalition.

The Summit for Democracy also provided an opportune moment for the Justice Action Coalition to host its first Senior Level meeting of 2023. At the meeting, countries were able to update the coalition on good (domestic and international) practices on people-centered justice while partners presented updates on the status of the Joint Deliverables of the Justice Action Coalition.

This fourth edition of the Justice Action Update highlights progress made and key takeaways from the Senior Level Meeting of the Justice Action Coalition and from the Summit for Democracy; places the United States, a new member nation of the Justice Action Coalition in the spotlight; and much more!

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1. Senior Level Meeting of the Justice Action Coalition

On March 30th, the Justice Action Coalition convened the Senior Level meeting virtually on the sidelines of the Summit for Democracy. The meeting was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the g7+ secretariat, and the Pathfinders.

Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Niger, Portugal, São Tomé Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Sweden, and the United States of America (Department of Justice and USAID) were represented at the senior level.

At the partner level, ABA ROLI, the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, HiiL, ICTJ, IDLO, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures, Namati, OECD, OGP, UNDP, UN Women, World Bank, and the WJP were represented. A representative of the Task Team of the Justice Action Coalition was also present.

Key outcomes of the meeting:

  • Justice Action Coalition countries highlighted progress made on SDG16.3, demonstrating a commitment to come to the SDG Summit with data and evidence of their contribution to closing the justice gap.
  • The Joint Deliverables of the Coalition are on track and partners committed to present these by the SDG Summit in September 2023.
  • Participants agreed to the proposed outcomes of the Ministerial meeting in June 2023.

2. Updates on the Joint Deliverables

During the Senior Level Meeting of the Justice Action Coalition in March, the partner organizations updated the Coalition about the status of the Joint Deliverables.

The Justice Data Graphical Report is on course to be released in July. It is intended to inform the global narrative on access to justice at the HLPF and the SDG Summit in 2023 and help make the case for increased data collection efforts and use of people-centered justice data. It will present a statistical analysis and data points of justice outcomes based on legal needs survey data.

The Access to Justice SDG 16.3.3 Report will introduce and discuss the importance of SDG 16.3.3 as part of broader access to justice goals and analyze existing data on the 16.3.3 indicator from countries. The report is set to be released in July 2023.

The 2023 Ibero-American Progress Report on Justice for All is currently in the development stage and the working groups are collecting data. The report will present the justice gap in the region, advances on people-centered justice strategies focusing on those most at risk of being left behind, as well as the drafting process of a binding Ibero-American Convention on Access to Justice, led by the COMJIB. The report will be ready in July.

Transitional Justice and SDG16+ report is slated to coincide with the SDG Summit. The activities in the first half of 2023 will be geared toward the preparation of the report, including the circulation and revision of an outline and full drafts. The goal of the report is to influence policy discussions related to the 2030 agenda, particularly in regard to the Justice Action Coalition, the 2023 HLPF and SDG Summit, and Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/51/L.33.

The Working Group on Customary and Informal Justice (CIJ) is on-track to deliver its report in time for the SDG Summit. The Working Group has, amongst other interventions, conducted stakeholder consultations in Liberia, Latin America and the Caribbean with bilateral donors, faith-based actors, and the legal aid and paralegal community. The main aim of the report is to build policy consensus on the case for engaging with CIJ systems and “what works” to promote more relevant and effective justice investments.

The study on Gender Responsive Justice Financing seeks to examine the extent to which national budgets respond to women’s justice needs and the gender justice gap, using Uganda and Canada as case studies. The research includes a broader literature review of foreign feminist policies, national development plans, justice sector strategies, selected budgets from the global south and global north, financing for gender equality and the proportion of countries with systems to track, and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Working Group on Justice for Children will release a series of Justice for Children Briefings leading up to the second SDG Summit in 2023. These Briefings will put the spotlight on children’s most common justice problems, harness global learnings from innovations, reinforce child and youth participation, inform policy guidance, and support national governments.

The Young Justice Leaders are on track to launch and conduct their research and advocacy projects based on their thematic and regional expertise. The Young Justice Leaders have identified five objectives over the course of the year to close the global justice gap. These include mainstreaming people-centered justice, increasing access to justice data, promoting data justice, increasing financing for people-centered justice, reimagining youth justice, and customary and informal justice.

Through substantive discussions and interactive templates, the Working Group on Key Messages has established three key goals for people-centered justice messaging each with an array of related outcomes. These goals revolve around a common understanding of people centered justice, the use of key messages by key stakeholders, and the outcomes of the SDG Summit, as well as the Summit for the Future. The Key Messages will be ready by July 2023, in time for the High-Level Political Forum, so that the Coalition members and observers can draw upon them for their respective communications strategies.

3. The Summit for Democracy

Together with the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, and Republic of Zambia, the United States co-hosted the second Summit for Democracy in March. The Summit brought together world leaders in a plenary format which included gatherings in each co-host capital with representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector. The goal was to showcase the progress of Summit partners on commitments made during the first Summit for Democracy, hosted by President Biden in December 2021.

Pathfinders, which serves as the secretariat to the Justice Action Coalition, together with ABA-ROLI, WJP and Transparency International were civil society co-leads of the Rule of Law and People-Centered Justice Cohort of the Summit for Democracy. The Cohort, which was co-led by the Republic of Kosovo and the Dominican Republic, highlighted that, to ensure vibrant democracies and build trust, we need to transform justice systems by putting people at the center and delivering equal access to justice for all.

Amongst other things, the Cohort produced a Joint Statement and Call to Action which includes renewed commitment to the Rule of Law, and endorsements of the 2023 Justice Appeal, the Hague Declaration, the Joint Action Plan of the g7+ countries, and the Buenos Aires Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All.

The Cohort also sought to strengthen participation in the Justice Action Coalition which saw Kosovo and the United States becoming official members. Finally, Cohort members, including eleven (11) countries and fifteen (15) civil society organizations made commitments to bold, transformative action in the furtherance of strengthening democracy, the rule of law, and justice.

4. Country in the spotlight: The United States

The United States, through the participation of USAID, has been an observer of the Justice Action Coalition since the first Ministerial Meeting — where the Joint Letter to the UN Secretary General was penned — in April 2021.

In the lead up to the Summit for Democracy, the United States became one of the Justice Action Coalition’s newest full members, represented by USAID and the Office for Access to Justice, within the US Department of Justice.

USAID Rule of Law policy

The US has made recent strides in championing a people-centered approach to justice. During the Summit, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced the launch of the highly anticipated USAID Rule of Law Policy — a groundbreaking elevation of the principles of people-centered justice at a policy level.

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This policy balances our focus on building or strengthening institutions, working with new partners, with a new emphasis on people-centered approaches to justice and on closing this access to justice gap. We are already doing this work in some of our partner countries…. Our new policy, we hope, will help make this kind of work a primary part of our Rule of Law strategy.” – USAID Administrator Samantha Power

5. Update on the developments on the Permanent Structure of the Justice Action Coalition

The 2022 Ministerial Meeting of the Justice Action Coalition decided to form a task team to develop proposals, support decision-making, and prepare a formal announcement of a permanent structure to support the Justice Action Coalition at the Second SDG Summit in September 2023.

The draft Declaration on the Justice Action Coalition has been developed, which is slated to be adopted at the 2023 Ministerial Meeting of the Coalition. It was drafted by the task team on the basis of extensive consultations, meetings with the country reference group and the organizations reference group, and two rounds of written comments and revisions.

The draft Declaration lays out the structure for collaboration within — and support to — the Justice Action Coalition for the next phase of the work from 2024–2027. The proposed mandate of the Justice Action Coalition is threefold:

  1. Building political alignment on transforming justice systems, by joining forces at the national, regional, and global level to influence agendas and funding streams.
  2. Enabling national justice leaders to develop and implement credible strategies, by brokering access to resources, expertise, and international support.
  3. Advancing the understanding of what works, by endorsing standards and methodologies, and assessing data and evidence on people-centered justice.

The proposed structure is grounded in intergovernmental agreement, with a Ministerial Council, a multi-stakeholder Board to guide the work and oversee implementation, and workstreams, that will provide the global knowledge infrastructure for people-centered justice. In addition, an Office of the Coalition will support the work of the Coalition. Discussions on the hosting organizations and modalities are ongoing.

The next big moment will be the Ministerial meeting of the Coalition on 19 June 2023. This meeting is meant to be a steppingstone to the HLPF in July and the SDG Summit in September, when the Coalition will formally announce how it will work from 2024–2027 to make measurable progress on the goal of providing equal access to justice for all by 2030.

The Task Team is composed of Maaike de Langen and Akingbolahan Adeniran. Should you wish to receive more information, you can reach them via

6. Reports, policy briefs and other news

  • UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and Transforming Communities for Inclusion (TCI) wrote a blog showcasing ways to deliver people-centered justice for women with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.
  • Impunity Watch and INOVAS wrote a blog summarizing the lessons from a recent report on meaningful reparations processes, their impact on survivors of human rights abuses, and obstacles in designing and implementing them.
  • ODI produced a policy brief, with Pathfinders, on the role of customary and informal justice in advancing people-centered justice. This paper was the third in a series which focuses on taking people-centered justice to scale through investing in what works to deliver SDG 16.3 in lower-income countries.
  • ODI produced a policy brief, with Pathfinders, focusing on domestic financing for justice and who spends most on justice. This was the fourth paper in a series of papers on taking people-centered justice to scale through investing in what works to deliver SDG 16.3 in lower-income countries.
  • The Rule of Law and People-Centered Justice Cohort of the Summit for Democracy released a Joint Statement and call to action on the rule of law and people-centered justice thereby renewing a core pillar of democracy. This was also translated into Spanish.
  • HiiL published a background paper and a policy brief focusing on how to figure out “what works” when it comes to people-centered justice.
  • HiiL released a policy brief measuring the justice outcomes that survivors of intimate partner violence seek. It is an updated prototype which offers a practical tool designed to help practitioners deliver justice services that are truly people-centered in terms of the outcomes they deliver.
  • HiiL launched a detailed report on the justice needs and journeys of people in Tunisia. This new study brings to life the full scope of people’s legal problems in Tunisia.
  • WJP released a Corruption in the Caribbean Report which shows that the majority of people believe that public officials are corrupt.
  • IDLO released an issue brief, Strengthening Climate Justice in Somaliland: The Role of ADR Centres, which provides an overview of key justice challenges caused or aggravated by the effects of climate change in Somaliland, and outlines opportunities for addressing these challenges through the ADR Centres.
  • IDLO released an issue brief, Enabling Access to Justice for Survivors of Gender-based Violence Against Women in Somaliland. It describes the key barriers preventing access to justice for survivors of GBVAW in Somaliland and outlines opportunities for addressing some of these barriers through the IDLO-supported ADR Centres.

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