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Leaving no one behind on justice: New report provides paths for sustainably scaling up access to justice

June 8, 2016
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Two men in India
Aubrey Wade, 2015

Access to justice is one of the driving forces of development, and is now recognized with a dedicated goal under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although basic legal services are widely recognized as essential to allow people to access justice, to date efforts to reach marginalized communities have been few and of limited duration. One of the main challenges is how to scale basic legal services in a financially viable manner.

To tackle this common challenge, IDRC, the Open Society Foundations, and the Legal Education Foundation commissioned a report by the UK-based Law and Development Partnership entitled Developing a portfolio of financially sustainable, scalable basic legal service models

Looking at 17 country case studies in context, the report develops a framework for thinking about how basic legal service interventions can be taken to scale in a sustainable manner in low and middle income countries. The report sets out an approach that calculates the costs of taking particular interventions to scale, based on studies of the population’s legal needs, costs of delivery, an analysis of benefits, and the size of the population. To assess affordability in specific countries, the size of the population versus the costs of scaling up are weighed against what is spent from government budgets in other sectors.

The report then goes on to look at a wide range of financing options available for scaling up delivery beyond government funding. Drawing on examples from the health and education sectors, a typology of models spanning national government, donor, philanthropic and private sector sources is developed.

Some of the report’s significant recommendations are:

  • Using legal needs surveys more widely in justice sector interventions, to improve understanding of the scale and type of legal services that are in demand (including criminal and traditional justice systems). The surveys would also provide information about which demands are and are not being met, and shed light on the reasons why.
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  • Piloting innovative financing mechanisms, modalities, and partnerships between donors and private sector impact investors, to open up new and sustainable funding streams, demonstrate the feasibility (“proof of concept”) of these vehicles, and facilitate effective and accountable service delivery.
  • Incorporating the collection of a broader range of cost and benefit data in basic legal service programming to assess the value for money of provision.

The report is expected to help donors, governments, and non-governmental actors determine new and systematic ways of scaling up basic legal services in a sustainable manner. Improving access to justice, in turn, will help states and their populations achieve their commitments made under the new SDGs.

The report will be launched at the Future Directions on Access to Justice Conference: Scaling access to leave no one behind, in Ottawa on June 16-17, 2016.

Read the report summary (PDF, 650KB) and a briefing on Global Goal 16 (PDF, 737KB). 

Read a full version of Developing a portfolio of financially sustainable, scalable basic legal service models, complete with annexes.