HiiL Highlights February 2016

HiiL Highlights February 2016

Justice strides in 2015 – the smaller picture

Sometimes focusing on the bigger picture just does not work. Take rule of law in 2015. That year will go not down in history as a good justice year. There was war and total breakdown of societies in the Middle East, resulting in an unprecedented refugee crisis. There was a global rise in violent religious extremist acts; in Europe, many Muslim countries, but also in Myanmar, Israel, West and East Africa. Populism that actively undermines rule of law is on the rise in many countries: only this weekend US presidential candidate Trump proudly said in a TV debate that he’d bring back a lot worse than waterboarding.

The space for civil society organisations to work in was reduced through restrictive laws on funding, operating, and by outright suppression. And international organisations that have been designed to work on rule of law, like the International Criminal Court, have not been particularly successful either. Having said that, it has not all been doom and gloom. For that reason I resort to a smaller picture: areas in which HiiL Innovating Justice has been active in some way and where I do see improvement: measuring and innovation.

Not all that long ago, the very idea of asking users of the justice system how they experienced its performance was considered daft. I still do workshops in which judges and ministry officials hint that asking the customers of the justice system to rate the product they get could infringe judicial independence. But the idea is catching on and 2015 was an important part of that. An interesting evaluation of UK rule of law aid by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, was quite critical of the efforts of security and justice development aid by DFID. It strongly recommended more measuring and showed how it can help. Knowing DFID, they will do this. In March of this year, the EU launched its Justice Scoreboard, which measures, amongst other things, the quality of justice systems. Another measuring highlight was the launch of the 2015 Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project which provides what is probably the world’s most comprehensive insights about how people experience rule of law based on 100.000 household and 2400 experts surveys. HiiL Innovating Justice added two new justice needs and satisfaction reports in 2015: one on separation and the other on labour disputes in The Netherlands. New surveys were started in Uganda, Ukraine, and the UAE.

The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN in September can also be considered a justice highlight of 2015. Goal 16 is of particular interest for justice and rule of law people: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. That goal is further elaborated upon by 10 targets, which include promoting rule of law, access to justice, and representative and accountable institutions. With that, Goal 16 is a valuable lode star until 2030 for those working in the justice development field. But the SDG’s are also a measuring highlight: in the President’s Summary on implementation of the SDG’s it is clearly stated that “[d]ata collection and analysis would be critical for implementation.” We must all push to make this a reality.

Justice and innovation are still seen by most people as two things that don’t go together, but 2015 created some cracks in the conceptual walls that separate them. In February I spoke at the very inspiring Government Summit in Abu Dhabi (see my Slaw Online column of 15 March). It was hopeful that ‘justice innovation’ was a topic (albeit small). At the same time, it was also worrying that so much justice infrastructure is simply assumed. Data for better services to citizens, driverless cars, robots for healthcare, artificial intelligence for policy enhancement, are all assumed with little thought about what will need in terms of laws, institutions, and shaping rule of law. In July a conference on legal futures was held in Singapore in which it was also concluded that a number of societal and economic trends make business as usual in the justice sector untenable. Innovation will be needed. Stanford held its CodeX Futurelaw Conference. The American Bar Association had a big conference on the future of legal services. The Global Agenda Council on Justice of the World Economic Forum made innovation in the justice sector a core pillar of its international work programme. In June the Council co-organised the Innovating Justice Summit, bringing together many stakeholders to put justice innovation on the international agenda. One of its outcomes was the Innovating Justice Pledge. The Civil Justice Council of the UK, though a commission chaired by Richard Susskind, published an excellent report on online dispute resolution in civil justice, pointing towards where innovation should happen. HiiL’s Innovating Justice Accelerator ran a justice innovation challenge in Africa on Small Medium Enterprises, together with the Ford Foundation. The Challenge led to a fantastic Justice Boost Camp in Lagos where the winning teams from East and West Africa battled it out for a place in the finals at the Innovating Justice Forum in The Hague. There was also a special Latin America Justice Innovation Challenge held by Desarrollando América Latina. Over 200 guests attended this year's Innovating justice Forum to meet and interact with justice innovators from all over the world and listen to inspirational justice leaders such as Tharcisse Karugarama (Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda), H.E. Abdulla A.J. Al-Majid (Assistant Undersecretary at the Ministry of Justice of the United Arab Emirates), and inspiring Eddie Hartman of Legal Zoom. 'Legal, Simplified', is the slogan that made DIYLaw from Nigeria the winner of the SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge for East & West Africa and receiver of a direct investment of $40,000 by the Ford Foundation. Gerald Abila and Michael Kwizera from mSME Garage came in a close second with $20,000 in seed funding. Timothy Mwirabua's ShopOfficer will receive $10,000. The police reporting app Five-0 received €20,000. All innovations will receive further support to accelerate their impact. All this shows that whether institutions join or wait, justice innovation is starting to happen.

Building on these two pillars – measuring and innovation – HiiL Innovating Justice will continue its work in 2016 to build effective and efficient justice journeys for the world’s citizens. Whether you are a couple who are no longer able to live together, a employer and employee who need to transition their relationship, an upstart SME who is bullied by a monopolist, or a farmer who’s land is taken, you all have a right to a justice journey that works. That means the right information at the right time to assess whether there is a justice problem and whether rights are being infringed, informal negotiators, mediators, and informal advisers to help solve the matter, resort to a court if that is needed, and proper execution and aftercare once the matter has been decided upon. All should be organized within a reasonable time frame and based on sustainable financing models. We still have a lot of work to so.

Read the February 2016 HiiL Highlights