HiiL Covid 19 Survey: How did justice institutions adapt to the Covid-19 challenge, which justice problems are to be expected and what impact do these problems have?
Thought leaders in the justice sector are concerned about a looming wave of legal problems. They expect incidents of injustice to surge. This may lead to civil unrest in some countries. Business as usual – by courts and police enforcing laws, with legal services available for the few – is unlikely to work. Thought leaders we engage offered clear indications on how courts, ministers of justice and politicians should respond to guarantee peace and justice.
Two-hundred and seventy one justice leaders from more than 20 countries engaged in this dialogue via an online questionnaire. As a first step we asked them about their views on the impact of Covid-19 on the delivery of justice.
The respondents have significant experience. Sixty-eight percent have more than 10 years of professional experience and 18% more than 6 years. Twenty-six percent are lawyers, 19% work for NGOs, 13% judges or prosecutors, 9% are academics and 8% are justice innovators. Geographically, the thought leaders work mostly in Europe (35%), Sub-Saharan Africa (35%) and the Middle East and North Africa (22%).
Justice Institutions in the pandemic
In many countries, justice institutions were closed (May 2020). Video-conferencing solutions were widely implemented and rules of procedure were changed through emergency laws.
“Currently most justice systems are only applying technology to the same inaccessible systems instead of rethinking the entire justice delivery model. Part of the problem is the very rigid regulation that governs justice systems.”
Increase in number of conflicts and disputes
Far more disputes that are directly related to the global economic depression, including business problems, debt, and employment disputes, are expected. The justice leaders also anticipate that the economic crisis and the public health measures will put intense pressure on families and communities, leading to a significant increase in family disputes and domestic violence.
Other disputes, including (access to) welfare, health bills and insurance, tax, and housing issues are also expected to increase worldwide.
“The vulnerable will be hit hardest by the crisis. Interventions to increase access to justice should be targeted to address the needs of this group.”
Covid-19 related problems will cause loss of jobs and income. In countries with a large informal job market of weak employment protection legislation, this has already happened. Closures of businesses, stress-related illness, and damage to family relationships are already impacting people’s lives as well. In the MENA region and in Sub-Saharan Africa more than 60% of the respondents expect violence as a consequence of the new wave of justice problems.
“The major risk I envisage is that there will be higher imbalance between the justice demands of the society and the ability of justice institutions to respond to such demand.”
Due to Covid-19: a widening justice gap
Respondents are not optimistic about how this surge of additional justice problems will be resolved. 70% expect problems to escalate more often. Problems are expected to be resolved more often between the parties. Solutions are expected to be less fair and achieved less quickly. A large increase in the number of disputes, together with Covid-19-induced inefficiencies, will result in significant additional delays, particularly among low and middle income countries. In sum, the justice gap will widen.
Courts, police and other justice services will have to adapt their services, focusing on interventions that are most likely to resolve or prevent an additional wave of justice problems. Just rendering decisions and imposing sanctions is unlikely to work. The situation asks for a richer portfolio of interventions, delivered locally, in communities. Developing innovative service delivery models is seen as the main way forward. Seeing the sheer size of the challenges, it is not surprising that justice leaders are thought to benefit from new skills, relationships and coordination processes.
For more in depth and detailed information, you can find here the full report: https://covid19-report.hiil.org/.
It would be of real value to us if you care to share your thoughts, views and ideas. Contact information: Dr. Martin Gramatikov, Director of Measuring Justice