A people-centred approach: paving the way for a sustainable future

Heatwaves, hunger, and ongoing wars are some of the pressing challenges that plague our world today. To overcome these interconnected issues, a collaborative approach is needed, which is precisely why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established. However, with just seven years left to achieve these goals, progress is alarmingly slow, and some are even regressing. 

HiiLers in Action

For the upcoming SDG summit, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a Rescue Plan for the Planet involving real commitments to help drive the SDG transformation. He also noted that Goal 16 on access to justice for all plays a pivotal role in enabling progress across all the SDGs.

It is evident that without equal access to justice for all, we cannot effectively reduce poverty, address inequalities, ensure peace, or tackle the consequences of climate change. But how can we shift from mere discussion to actual implementation? The answer lies in unifying our efforts and prioritising outcomes for people. With 17 SDGs at hand, breaking down silos and recognising the interconnectedness of SDG enablers is crucial if we are to make progress on each goal without leaving one behind.

How can we shift from mere discussion to actual implementation? The answer lies in unifying our efforts and prioritising outcomes for people.

Among various approaches, people-centred justice stands out as the most promising programme for achieving access to justice for all. This method, driven by data, evidence, and innovation, seeks to bring about systemic change to enhance the delivery of justice services. It ensures that justice is available and accessible to all, regardless of their geographical location or identity. As such, it aligns perfectly with the principle of « leave no one behind » and strives to provide fair and just outcomes for all people.

Today, 5.1 billion people lack adequate access to justice. Beyond these numbers lie the stories of individuals whose lives are impacted by unresolved issues related to work, family, or land. Living in a state of limbo, they are unable to contribute to the societies and economies that are fundamental to achieving our collective goals and prosperity. 

This justice gap is a pervasive global problem, affecting most nations. Urgent action is needed to provide equal access to justice for all, and people-centred justice offers a clear way forward, yielding both social and economic benefits.

Here’s what you can do now
Work from the data 
Setup a dedicated Task Force 
Rethink how to finance and fund justice
Be a champion for sensible change
Give directly to nationally-led initiatives of people-centred justice programming

In addressing pressing issues like climate change, fair, inclusive, independent, and accountable justice systems are imperative. Take, for example, the growing disputes between farmers and herders in Sub-Saharan Africa due to increased droughts and diminishing fertile land. Such climate-related conflicts require justice systems that can deliver justice to affected individuals and communities swiftly and effectively, so they can get on with their daily lives. 

People-centred justice not only recognises the intersection of climate change with social, economic, and environmental justice, but it also ensures that the differential impacts of climate change on individuals and communities are addressed through equitable solutions. By doing so, people-centred justice contributes to fostering a just and sustainable response to climate change.

Moreover, as climate-induced migration intensifies in the most affected regions, it is crucial to meet the justice needs of refugees. For example in Ethiopia, research has revealed that refugees face more legal problems, which they perceive as more severe than host communities and the general population. When a refugee falls victim to a violent crime in addition to losing all their possessions, their situation becomes even more dire. 

People-centred justice plays a transformative role in recognising refugees’ justice problems and providing tailor-made solutions to meet their specific needs. This approach creates a win-win scenario by fostering durable local resolutions for local problems. Social cohesion flourishes, and the quality of life in displacement-affected areas improves for all. As the global refugee population continues to rise, people-centred justice becomes an urgent necessity, more relevant now than ever.

What is people-centred justice?
People-centred justice is an emerging approach that puts people and their justice needs at the centre. This integrated way of working has five components: starting with the collection of data on the needs of people, moving to evidence-based practice by applying what works, combining these best practices into scalable sustainable, game-changing services, creating an enabling environment for that, and forming a movement to make this change happen. Together they keep the focus on system change to ensure justice for better societies.

To truly reduce poverty, inequalities, and the fallouts of climate change, equal access to justice for all is an essential prerequisite. Joining our efforts and embracing the 2030 Agenda in unity will pave the way for more justice, equality, inclusion, sustainability, and peaceful societies.

As we approach the upcoming SDG summit, let us make a genuine commitment to giving justice to people and accelerating progress towards the SDGs. It is time to prioritise people as the unifying element. We may have 17 SDGs, but we only have one chance to make the right choices necessary to make the SDG transformation happen.

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