Bangladesh: How Measuring Justice Can Help

Bangladesh is a small, developing country in South Asia located between India and the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. More than 150 million people co-exist in a picturesque piece of land where the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Megha Rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal

Notwithstanding the fact that Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, it is making rapid progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Bangladesh’s poverty rates are also improving; according to the World Bank, the poverty rate dropped from 44.2% in 1991 to 18.5% in 2010.

Rule of law and justice are intrinsic to decreasing, and ultimately eliminating, the prevalent issue of poverty in Bangladesh. Fair, predictable and transparent laws, implemented and enforced by objective and fair institutions allow people to invest in their human and social development. The rule of law protects and increases the value of important relationships around education, family, property rights and work.

From an individual’s perspective, the rule of law concerns a person’s ability to resolve disputes in a fair and constructive manner. This means accessible mechanisms, which apply fair processes that lead to just outcomes. A well-designed justice journey is organized around a neutral decision maker. This person or group of people is independent from the disputants and aims to resolve the disputes according to fair, objective and known criteria. Effective justice journeys should be user-centered, non-discriminatory, timely and respectful.

HiiL is implementing its Justice Needs and Satisfaction methodology to study how the people of Bangladesh experience and perceive the available justice journeys. We are going to ask a large number of randomly selected individuals from across the country about their encounters with justice. This will yield rich data to map out access to justice in Bangladesh. It will reveal the scope of the problems and the strategies that people use to resolve their legal issues.

Most importantly, the data will tell how the users of justice assess the quality of the processes, the quality of the outcomes and the costs of justice. This will allow for a prioritization of policies and also a redesigning of existing procedures so that people’s expectations are better met. Data will trigger justice innovation based on the implicit needs, interests and expectations of the people of Bangladesh.

Our project in Bangladesh is developing rapidly. A large part of its success is based on HiiL’s cooperation with excellent partners. This includes Nielsen Bangladesh, who are collecting survey data. From 9 to 11 August 2017 we trained more than 50 highly capable interviewers in Dhaka. BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Aid programme is our strategic Knowledge and Implementation partner. BRAC’s unparalleled track record and capacity linked with HiiL’s potential in measuring and innovating justice promise impactful developments in the access to justice arena in Bangladesh!

Stay tuned – our data report is expected to be published in December 2017.