Bringing people-centered justice to national agendas
On 9 February 2021, HiiL and partners assembled for Day 2 of the Innovating Justice Forum. Participants and speakers discussed case studies and experiences to highlight challenges and possible interventions needed to encourage national governments of their role in promoting people-centred justice. The sessions also explored “the right leadership” and the kinds of leadership needed to champion people-centred justice.
“Strong leadership isn’t only about institutional reforms but also requires examining people’s experiences within justice systems,” said Alejandro Alvarez, Director of the Rule of Law Unit Executive Office of the Secretary-General at the United Nations. “Public servants and individuals must account for how people experience their respective issues and search for ways to solve people’s problems. This means putting the service first – making sure people have the information required to feel comfortable, welcomed, secure, and to reduce the stress in the justice-seeking experience.”
Highlights from Day 2 included:
- A hypothetical case study – This hands-on activity examined the challenges and possible interventions for scaling-up ‘Community Justice Services’ (CJS) and integrating formal and informal systems of justice. Panelists addressed several questions including regulatory reforms necessary to scale-up CJS; possible recommendations for changing the financing of justice services; and which public authorities are most relevant to success and what would be needed from them, among others. Key takeaways included:
- Authorities most relevant: Be politically conscious and explore different routes – not only the public sector but also private sector streams/investments. Remember to show your value and win hearts.
- Financial support: Which funding models are most promising for the community services and tribunals? Encourage national governments to get involved and consider private investors/angel investors – those who share your values, your idea, and express why these (CJS) services are relevant or necessary.
- Gender dimension: Female CJS innovators may face certain challenges and get scrutinised versus their male counterparts who may be approached in a different way. Cultivate partnerships.
- Role of lawyers: How can lawyers and community justice providers complement each other? How can we help lawyers understand better what role they can play at the community level?
- People-centred justice in Uganda – During this ‘fire-side chat’, HiiL’s very own Rachel Ampaire, Programme Manager with the Uganda team, and Edgar Kuhimbisa, Information, Communications and Technology Officer with the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS – Uganda) discussed lessons from HiiL – JLOS partnership.
Edgar thanked HiiL for their partnership and the Justice Accelerator programme that has encouraged justice innovations in Uganda and “inspired many visionary Ugandans”. He added, “It’s crucial to not just talk about solutions. Let’s dive into implementation and have results to show for it. This helps catch the attention of national actors. And when we start focusing on the small wins, we begin to see change happen.”
- Political leadership – This interactive panel discussion addressed the practices and conditions helpful to creating an ‘enabling environment’ to advance people-centered justice. Discussants recognised political leadership for people-centered justice as:
- Honesty about the lack of access to justice.
- Justice as a service to people.
- Focus on people’s experience.
- Original approaches to making change.
- New strategy for rule of law assistance.
- Government as an innovator – During the final interactive panel discussion, panelists addressed ways for seeking the right leadership and the kinds of leadership needed to champion people-centred justice. Judge Ginger Wren, moderator of the session, noted the impact of COVID-19 on digitising the justice system in the US. “If it wasn’t for the pandemic, we, in the US, would likely not have moved forward [in this regard].” She added, “From desperation comes innovation, from crisis to opportunity. We [all] need to find innovative ways to resolve disputes and conflicts – we need Gamechangers, leaders, and governments all to come forward to make justice innovation work.”
When asked about the challenges of conveying a message to the public and communication as an important aspect of leadership, Michala Mackay, Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) in Sierra Leone replied, “Understanding the challenge is the solution. Connectivity for instance is not always an internet-based answer. Community engagement can be more effective; for example, using other mediums like radio and building local and sustainable partnerships to transmit vital information.”
For his part, Paul Neo, the COO at the Singapore Academy of Law, noted that innovation is not technology. “Do not confuse innovation with technology – technology is only a tool and we must ask ourselves ‘what is the best way to apply technology?’”. He continued, “The human element is extremely important, which includes introducing mediation and dispute resolution to school children; or educating our older generation on the needs of making a will, for example.”
On Day 3, the conference will explore “Funding people-centred justice”. Participants and speakers will set the big picture on Justice Budgeting 2.0 and examine the roles various funding agencies can play in creating people-centred justice. Questions will include: How can governments and donor agencies alike support game changing justice initiatives? What role can the private sector play in developing, funding and scaling people-centred justice? And how can data help foster a people-centred justice movement for the future?