Access to Justice

“Access to justice” is more than improving physical access to courts and guaranteeing legal aid. Access to justice refers to “the ability of people to seek and obtain a remedy through formal or informal institutions for justice for grievances” (UN Development Program [UNDP], Programming for Justice: Access for All – A Practitioner’s Guide to a Human Rights Based Approach to Access to Justice [2005], p. 5). Barriers to justice may be geographic (e.g., courts or other legal mechanisms are too far away), linguistic (i.e., courts operate in a different language), or social/cultural.

In terms of developing initiatives to increase access to justice, there are a number of avenues that are generally pursued: (1) enhancing normative legal protection (i.e., protection under the law); (2) enhancing the legal awareness of the population; (3) increasing opportunities to receive legal aid and counsel; (4) providing for better adjudication and enforcement of the law; and (5) instituting or expanding civil society and parliamentary oversight (ibid., p. 7).

Below are general resources on improving access to justice. Other topics go into greater detail on specific ways to enhance access to justice. Law Reform looks at how to enhance normative legal protection. Legal Empowerment contains information on legal awareness initiatives. Legal aid and counsel is covered under Legal Aid and Assistance . Adjudication and enforcement issues are discussed in the context ofJustice and Court Reform , Police Reform , Detention, Prisons, and Corrections Reform, and Prosecutorial Reform . Civil society and parliamentary oversight are covered under Oversight and Accountability Structures and Legal Empowerment .