Taking Off in 2024

Our CEO Sam Muller reflects on the past year of people-centred justice and the course set for the year ahead.

I took off on a true justice journey in the last weeks of this year. Abuja, Nairobi, and Tunis in three weeks. Engaging with the key stakeholders of our programmes. Hearing them use words like people-centred, justice needs data, outcomes at the centre, community justice services, and sustainable funding models. Having the conversations about overload, pressure, lack of funding and the burden of the huge expectations people have from justice systems. Journalists asking why justice is not working, what is being done about it and having something of an answer. Working with the HiiLers who are facilitating innovation labs, organising national surveys, and engaging with the justice practitioners. As I landed in Schiphol I could think of only one thing: people-centred justice programming is taking off. 

The year 2023 saw HiiL focus on working with justice institutions and innovators in Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Colombia, Iraq and Niger. Impressive steps were taken. The governments in three Nigerian States – Ogun, Kaduna, and Imo – alongside the judiciary and a diverse group of stakeholders, developed strategies to actualise innovative, affordable, and responsive justice delivery informed by data about the needs and experiences of people. Implementation of strategies has so far included priorities taken forward by governments with their own resources, and activities taken forward together with HiiL, on evidence-based practice, and Justice Innovation Labs.

Today, we believe that Nigeria has reached a pivotal moment for people-centred justice. Ethiopia is anchoring a conducive environment for innovative ‘game-changing’ solutions to increase resolution rates with a national model law in support of community justice delivery, which will be accompanied by the setting of minimum standards to guide implementation. The national budget has been allocated for three years in support of people-centred justice programming. The Kenyan judiciary launched an ambitious 10-year Social Transformation for Access to Justice Blueprint. In the Netherlands, a system of outcome-based monitoring for the criminal justice chain is being developed. These are systemic and practical steps forward in closing the justice gap. Taking off. 

‘Taking off’ means that HiiL will continue to support increasing the prevention and resolution of the most frequently occurring justice problems in Ethiopia, Kenya, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Uganda.

Scaling new initiatives remains challenging, whether they are pilots that involve formal justice institutions or innovations started by social entrepreneurs. One of their challenges includes the budgets of ministries of justice and judiciaries, which leave little or no room to free up funding for constantly working on improvements. A regulatory environment that severely restricts the kinds of legal services that can be offered also remains an impediment. We have only partially been able to come up with effective responses to these challenges and they will continue to have our focus on 2024. 

‘Taking off’ means that HiiL will continue to support increasing the prevention and resolution of the most frequently occurring justice problems in Ethiopia, Kenya, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Uganda. It means collecting and publishing more data about the justice needs and experiences of people in Nigeria, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Colombia, Honduras and Niger. It means adapting to fragile environments as we restart operations in Burkina Faso, with a new focus on working with CSOs. A new phase of our EU-funded Syria programme will start, as well as a new innovation project in Iraq. 

Across all our programmes we will work more with justice sector institutions, in particular ministries and judiciaries. Community justice services have a lot of traction, and we will work with those ministries and judiciaries to scale them countrywide, focusing on the most frequently occurring justice problems that emerge from our surveys, like family-, employment-, and land problems, and some categories of crime problems.

We also see more commitment from ministries and judiciaries to allocate national budgets to such efforts, which we will continue to develop. The expertise we bring to that includes helping to collect and share evidence-based practices about what it takes to resolve these problems and the advice and expertise we bring on effective outcome monitoring, sustainable financing, a conducive regulatory framework, and effective organisational models. Our talented team, the data collection and research, our communication and advocacy, and our operational support are all geared towards making this happen. 

On behalf of all HiiLers, I want to thank all those amazing people who have worked with us in 2023. We are humbled and feel proud that we can work with you. Many thanks as well to our funders in 2023: the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Niger and Kenya, UNHCR, UNODC, the European Union, Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland, the Municipality of the City of the Hague, Open Society Foundations, the Mott Foundation, Fonds Slachtofferhulp, the Center for International Cooperation of New York University, and those funders that wish to remain anonymous. Lastly, I want to thank the amazing HiiL team of friendly rebels, with their unlimited commitment and drive, who are the motor of what we do. 

Together, we look forward to taking off in 2024!