Innovating Justice Forum 2012: Towards basic justice care for everyone

In the justice sector, reform efforts and innovations are now increasingly focused on justice needs. These innovative approaches start from the problems that people experience and their capabilities to solve them. Rather than designing laws or working on the organisation of courts, these innovations focus on improving processes that lead to fair outcomes for the people involved.

HiiL and Tisco (Tilburg University) have initiated a Forum which will culminate in an event in The Hague on 16-17 April 2012. The goal of the forum is to organise support for innovations and to link innovators, experts and stakeholders. The forum will identify the most promising strategies and concrete steps to improve the climate to innovate, so that “basic justice care” can become available for everyone. A select group of Rule of Law experts and representatives from international organisations have been invited to take part.

Basic Justice Needs: fair solutions for everyone? | Throughout the world, people call for justice. In the Arab world and elsewhere, they rally behind parties that have justice as their mantra. But justice is more than an idea. It is about fair, affordable and timely solutions for problems that can become part of life. Imagine that land conflicts would be solved within six months, in a fair way. So that families living on the land, other stakeholders and developers can build their livelihoods on it, or their businesses.

Imagine that fair, effective solutions would also be available for crisis in other relationships: divorce, domestic violence, personal injury resulting from accidents, termination of employment, unpaid debts or defective products. Grievances about failing services from governments would be remedied, so that those in power will be more responsive to the needs of small businesses and families. Not all crime can be prevented, but if it happens, victims can be treated in a respectful way, harm can be repaired, or at least recognized. Such basic justice care is now only available to a limited group of people. Can it become available to everyone?

Innovative Justice Needs Approaches | Innovative approaches are now developing. Many of them start from actual problems people experience. Understanding the needs for justice, and strengthening people’s own capabilities to solve these problems is key here. Where will people look for information about what is a fair solution? How do friends, family members or professionals help them to enter into a dialogue with their opponent? What happens when they cannot settle the issue, and may need a decision by a judge or an informal tribunal? These justice needs approaches focus on what works. Beyond setting up courts, tribunals or laws, they mobilize innovative methods to let these institutions become more legitimate and effective. Many organisations are now working on such innovations, or making a strong case for them.

Vision and goals of the Innovating Justice Forum 2012

  • Knowledge about justice needs: Success depends on a thorough understanding of the needs for justice, the most frequent needs, the unmet needs (“the access to justice gap”), fairness of processes, solutions that work and ways to activate own and communal capabilities;
  • Bringing innovators and stakeholders together: Making progress from problem to problem, by cooperation of many suppliers of justice, each delivering parts of the solutions, innovation can bring basic justice care within the reach of every person on earth;
  • A good climate for innovation: A professional attitude towards justice care is needed, but good “business models” for innovation as well. Starting small, collecting evidence, scaling up what works, standardization, respectfully adjusting across cultural and national borders;

Innovation is vital for closing the access to justice gap. People experiencing the legal problems of everyday life should not become victims of political struggle, government paralysis, bureaucratic procedures or prolonged litigation. Moreover, a sense of justice is one of the best predictors of prosperity, peace and trust in relationships. If injury, insecurity and financial distress are not remedied, this is major set-back for the millions of people involved, their children and their families. Injustice is an important cause of violent conflict.

In times of major transitions, legal systems need to cope with an even bigger number of conflicts. Across the Arab world people seem to be occupied with the ‘big things’: Toppling the authoritarian rulers; holding, for the first time, democratic elections; amending or creating a new constitutional framework, which might include the establishment of new (justice) institutions or reforms of existing ones. But it was the men and women on the streets that started the Arab Spring, which should remind us of their perspective. What are their basic justice needs? How does the access to justice gap manifest itself in this region? What can be done in this region to allow more people to have greater and better access to justice?

Participation | Experts and organisations invited for the Innovating Justice Forum will work on this agenda. They will produce a report, which will highlight their own innovations and contributions, and join to explore how the climate for innovation can be improved. Outcomes will be presented at the Forum event on 16 and 17 April 2002 event.

For further information, please contact:

Kejia Guo, Research Coordination Officer
+31 70 349 4411 |