Day 1 Recap: Innovating Justice Forum 2021

Making people-centred justice happen

On 8 February 2021, The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law welcomed hundreds of justice thought-leaders from around the world for Day 1 of HiiL’s annual Innovating Justice Forum. This year’s virtual conference featured innovators, lawyers, judges, investors, ministers, and academics to discuss developing and financing universal justice care. Together, the gathering forms a people-centred justice movement committed to the mission of achieving equal access to justice for all by 2030.

“Inequality and access to justice are closely related,” said Birgitta Tazelaar, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “You are here because you have contributed innovative solutions to think of real ways to make people’s lives better. I am really impressed by the individuals involved at the Forum.”

Highlights from Day 1 included:

  • Innovator Pitches – Twenty prominent justice innovators from Africa, MENA and Ukraine presented their ‘gamechanging’ solutions, tools, and platforms for realising people-centred justice in their respective communities and around the globe.
  • Learning, integrity, respect, and perseverance – these are only some values justice leaders and innovators might take into account to advance their cause. “Knowing your why, your values, the people part — this is your compass for improving your decision making, improving your response to stress, and boosting your confidence,” said J. Kim Wright, a legal systems entrepreneur and author of Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-solving Law. During the Forum, she led a motivational session on answering your ‘Why’ using your values.
  • 2021 Trend Report: Delivering Justice, Rigorously We need a different framework,” said Maurits Barendrecht, Director of Research & Development at HiiL. “People don’t need judgements, they need solutions.” The 2021 Trend Report, Delivering Justice, Rigorously, empahsises task forces as solutions and takes readers through the steps necessary to establish a justice task force to make people-centred justice happen.

    Maurits continued, “At HiiL, we believe in learning. These task forces already exist around the world, but many focus on what is not working rather than improving what already works. Bringing about people-centred justice is not easy but with learning, data, and leadership, we can convert what is hard into what is possible.”
  • Lessons from the Innovators – During the afternoon session, ‘What makes a justice innovation a real gamechanger?’, cases studies were presented to show gamechanging justice innovations that are scalable, sustainable, and lead to impact. Key takeaways included:
    • Support innovation through social impact investment without losing sight of our collective mission.
    • Strategic partnerships are essential, but some solutions need to be built in-house.
    •  Enact a human-centred design approach. It’s important to work with communities you aim to serve (and existing organisations that support them) to identify what types of interventions would actually be useful.
    • Enable an adequate institutional environment that promotes collaboration between the state (at different levels of government) and the community.
    • Governments tend to be risk-averse but providing social proof and making room for new approaches can help. Keep in mind, there are very few distribution channels that are better than government. 
    • Hesitance to embrace the idea that people outside the public sector may be able to build better digital platforms that in-house counterparts.
  • Video: Numbers in Justice – More than 1 billion people are facing serious conflict each year but 70% of them go unresolved. This burden of injustice costs nearly $2,000 per person. It’s time now to turn the numbers into a new direction.
  • Transforming justice systems – The last session, Transforming justice systems: people-centred justice in the “new future”, featured a conversation on the relevance of Gamechangers in influencing systems of law and justice. Key takeaways included:
    • Governments must facilitate citizen access to information. Transparence and using more simplified language can help.  
    • Create platforms and frameworks that encourage collaboration in the delivery of services to citizens.
    • COVID-19 behooves us to engage the entire justice chain, including engaging and collaborating with different stakeholders. The pandemic has also called on us to use more and better data to evaluate and build on ‘what works’.
    • Innovator perspective: the atmosphere of the court system is intimidating, even for lawyers. However, a more reconciliatory form of justice (ubuntu) can help to reduce case backlog and reduce fear of the courts.
    • Access to legal information should target communities and key stakeholders also at the grassroots (i.e. on rights).
    • Regulation will help to promote transparency and protection in the future. A good case is Portugal where they are currently working on anonymization of data.
  • Winner of the Innovating Justice Award – After presentations from the 20 finalists, the three-panel jury of Linda Bonyo, Jackie Nagtegaal, and Duncan Onyango announced the winners of the 2021 Innovating Justice Award. The finalists were judged on four criteria: team, sustainability, scalability and impact. 

Third place, with a cash prize of 5k, went to Legal4ASM. Second place was Luma Law who receives 10K. And the winner of the 20K euro grand prize was awarded to Lawyerd. The Ukraine based Gamechanger is a fully automated claims platform that helps protect IP rights on the internet. Learn more about their work against online piracy and the unauthorised use of online property here.

“Making people-centred justice is a priority and we must do that now,” said Sam Muller, CEO at HiiL. “Not because it’s enshrined in The Hague Declaration or because we have a pandemic. There’s really only one reason why we must make this happen. Because it’s better for us all.”

Looking ahead to Day 2, the conference will tackle the theme of “Bringing people-centred justice to national agendas”. Participants and speakers will discuss lessons learnt using case studies and past experience to highlight challenges and possible interventions needed to encourage national governments of their role in promoting people-centred justice. The sessions will also explore “the right leadership” and the kinds of leadership needed to champion people-centred justice.

“HiiL is measuring what seems to work to achieve this goal,” said Sam. “Working together will be key to improving the ‘enabling environment’. But together also means creating a movement where we all hold each other accountable for progress.”

Further Reading: