One of the most valuable experiences during my internship at HiiL was the exposure to innovations and desire to pioneer solutions for improving access to justice. This made me realise the significance of what is happening in Latin America in terms of justice innovation.
Latin America is constantly changing. In the last two decades advanced judicial reforms were implemented, transforming national constitutions and reinforcing the role of judiciaries. At the same time, the last decades have been characterized by a significant development of jurisprudence and common efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. More recently, the region engaged in the implementation and promotion of the 100 Brasilia Regulations regarding Access to Justice for Vulnerable People, defining a common framework for national governments and donors.
The region has shown important progress concerning access to justice and the rule of law. As presented in the last report of the World Justice Project Index, Latin America has experienced positive results in the protection of human rights and government transparency. Uruguay and Chile are ranked among the top 20 countries within the overall ranking, with a better performance than Poland, Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal. Even though many problems remain, such as violence and corruption, the region has also presented creative solutions for major justice problems ranging from the Community Advocates in Peru and the Houses for Indigenous Women in Mexico, to jurisprudential databases and electronic petitions in Brazil. The diversity of solutions also speaks to the variety of cultural identities, hybrid character of the judiciaries and multitude of challenges, making innovation imperative for policy makers and justice actors.
What is even more interesting is that many of these innovative strategies have been supported by national governments and judiciaries, giving justice innovation a relevant place in the public agenda. A notable and recent example of this is the 2014 Strategic Agenda for Justice Innovation in Colombia, a pioneering initiative led by the government with the participation of academia, private sector and civil society. This aims to promote the use of information and communication technologies for addressing justice problems.
In this context, it is not striking that international and regional cooperation, rather than being diminished, are becoming central tools for Latin American countries. This, in my opinion, is a great opportunity for Justice Innovators. For example, initiatives such as HiiL’s Justice Innovation Lab can constitute a great space for transforming ideas into real policies. Moreover, these can serve as platforms for disseminating Latin American experiences and lessons learned to other countries that have similar problems with accessing justice. In other words, this is the perfect time to step in and seek strategic partnerships with a continent in bloom.