Policy Brief: Community Justice Services

Building on the merits of informal justice and alternative dispute resolution processes, many countries have developed community justice or informal justice programmes. Although informal justice processes come in many different forms, they tend to have a participatory nature, strive for consensus, focus on social harmony and promote restorative (conciliatory) solutions. They are similar to mediation, but can also have elements of adjudication. Another advantage of informal justice processes or community justice services is that the community can help to ensure compliance of decisions.

Community justice services seem to be an indispensable element of a justice system that provides equal access to justice for all. Gradually, policymakers are finding out how to scale the programmes to a regional or country level. In this policy brief, we list a number of critical success factors that we developed with insights from leading experts in the field of community justice services. We also used our experience in innovation labs for community justice services and benefited from our work with justice startups implementing projects in communities. The findings in this policy brief aim to inform municipal authorities, ministries of justice and leaders in the court system about the way they can scale community justice services, whilst respecting the needs and capabilities in the communities they intend to serve.

We expect community justice services to grow, because formal justice systems cannot serve people at sufficient scale for all their pressing justice problems. Community justice services have to overcome barriers to growth, by finding sustainable revenue models, by developing an oversight and monitoring system connected to the formal justice institutions, and securing a long-term commitment from national governments or donors.