Ensuring justice for all is a global challenge with over five billion people estimated to live outside the protection of the law. This challenge is particularly acute in conflict-affected countries. The g7+ countries are committed to ensure access to justice for all as one of the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding goals in the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States under Sustainable Development Goal No. 16 and, more recently, the Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030 and the Emerging findings of the Task Force on Justice.
What has also emerged through the discourse of the g7+ group and official declarations such as the Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030 is a recognition that the current way of approaching rule of law development also needs to be improved. Instead of the starting point being the replication of Western-style justice systems, Member States commit to putting people and their legal needs at the center of justice systems, solving their unique justice problems and improving the quality of their justice journeys for all including women, youth and marginalized groups.
Instead of working only with state actors, there is an increased understanding of the importance of engaging with both state and non-state providers of justice. Instead of ordinary people being viewed as passive recipients of justice, they should be empowered to understand, use and shape the law. Finally, rather than a reactive approach to access to justice, a forward-looking prevention approach has been recognized as being pivotal to reducing disputes, the risk of violence, atrocities, and conflict.
Given the complexity of working to increase access to justice in g7+ countries, it is important to recognize that the change process will be long and maybe multi-generational. At the same time, once barriers and obstacles to realizing justice for ordinary people have been ascertained, it is possible to identify immediate leverage points for change that can be tested and brought to scale, if successful. After decades of overly-technical rule of law and justice projects, the g7+ recognizes the importance of pioneering innovative models that are grounded in countries’ contexts in strengthening access to justice and sharing those that work with the other Member States. We believe that access to justice is a universal equity, but its delivery is local.