Legal problems are omnipresent in the everyday lives of Ethiopians. Approximately 40% of the population have experienced one or more serious and difficult to resolve legal problems in the past four years. That is roughly 7.4 million impactful legal problems per year. For perspective, a number this high equals 2.5 times the number of registered malaria cases per year in Ethiopia.

Key Highlights


data reports launched


stakeholder dialogues in the Justice Transformation Process

MoU with Ethiopia’s former Office of the Federal Attorney General, currently the Federal Ministry of Justice

Ethiopia is anchoring a conducive environment for innovative ‘game-changing’ solutions. The aim is 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. 

HiiL has been involved in Ethiopia since 2019. Between 2019 and 2020, HiiL partnered with Ethiopia’s former Office of the Federal Attorney General (currently the Federal Ministry of Justice) and the Federal Justice and Legal Research and Training Institute (today known as the Federal Justice and Law Institute, FJLI) to conduct the country’s first nationwide survey of people’s justice needs. More than 5,400 adults took part in the Justice Needs & Satisfaction (JNS) study. A second JNS, conducted in partnership with UNHCR, focused on the justice needs of refugees and host communities in the Somali and Tigray regions.

Following the JNS, a Justice Transformation process was initiated in Ethiopia to advance and support national efforts that would systematically realise people-centred justice. The programming sought to place justice as a priority on Ethiopia’s path towards peace and prosperity. 

“If our societies are to reduce violence, tackle corruption, protect the environment, address inequality and repair broken social contracts, they will need revamped justice systems that respond effectively – and cost-effectively – to people’s needs.”

A diverse group of justice leaders remain committed to people-centred justice in Ethiopia. Using the JNS data, these leaders have identified strategic priorities and (local) innovative solutions which can help prevent or resolve the legal problems that matter most to people. Follow-up activities with justice innovators and entrepreneurs is currently being explored, while Regional Dialogues on the justice needs of refugees and host communities are also planned. 

To read more about HiiL’s past work in Ethiopia, follow the links below.

Projects in Ethiopia

Justice Needs & Satisfaction in Ethiopia

How many divorces, housing disputes or employment disagreements take place in everyday life in Ethiopia? Who are the people who need justice and protection by the law? What do they do to resolve their legal problems? What works in resolving problems? To answer these questions, a Justice Needs and Satisfaction Survey was conducted in Ethiopia.

Justice Needs and Satisfaction of Refugees and Host Communities in Ethiopia

Access to justice is key to the protection and empowerment of refugees. Too often, however, governments and development organisations lack the knowledge and data to effectively support the justice needs of refugees and their host communities. To identify their legal problems in Ethiopia and how to design effective justice services in response, UNHCR asked HiiL to conduct a Justice Needs and Satisfaction (JNS) Survey tailored to the day-to-day justice experiences of refugees and the communities that host them.

Justice Transformation Process

The Justice Transformation process brings a diverse group of justice leaders together to review the data findings and develop local solutions to prevent or resolve the legal problems that matter most to people. Building and maintaining the enabling environment for innovative solutions and potential gamechangers is particularly needed for the transformation towards people-centred justice. Stakeholder dialogues are an important first step in that direction.


Contact person

Theresa Smout

Programme Director Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda

Further reading

New report by UNHCR and HiiL details the justice needs of refugees and host communities in Ethiopia

On 18 May, HiiL, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Government of Ethiopia announced results of its Justice Needs and Satisfaction survey of refugees and host communities.
The study articulates findings and offers recommendations for ensuring equal access to justice for refugees and host communities. More than 2,000 respondents from the Somali and Tigray Regions of Ethiopia participated in the survey which focused on their justice experiences and how they work to resolve the legal problems they encounter.

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Learn about our research