Dear Network Members,
I hope this finds you well. As many of you know I have been serving on an international Task Force on Justice. The Task Force is co-chaired by ministers from Argentina, the Netherlands, and Sierra Leone, as well as Hina Jilani of Pakistan, who’s a former UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders and a member of The Elders.
The task force was convened in part because of a lack of action on the commitment to “access to justice for all” in Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our community fought hard to make justice part of the international development framework, and Goal 16 is a historic normative victory, but little has been done since.
“Access to Justice” can mean many things; my goal on the task force has been to ensure focus on legal empowerment in particular. We hope that the Task Force’s findings can advance our collective campaign for greater financing and protection of grassroots justice defenders around the world. To that end, many network members have offered input, research, and case studies to the task force over the last year.
Earlier this month I attended the final meeting of the task force in The Hague. I am happy to report that after considerable discussion task force members have agreed that the report will emphasize legal empowerment. The report will argue that a functioning justice system needs both responsive institutions and empowered communities, and that civil society has a unique role in achieving the latter.
The report will address both everyday individual legal problems and collective ones that stem from systemic injustice, like land grabs, environmental destruction, corruption, and discrimination.
While we were in The Hague, Hina Jilani and Mary Robinson launched a new focus on access to justice for The Elders. We approached The Elders—a small group of respected leaders initially convened by Nelson Mandela-- two years ago to ask that they help build a new global norm, in which legal empowerment is part of what makes a healthy society. Last year The Elders’ board agreed to make this a priority for the next five years.
The Elders are keen to collaborate with our community. Mary Robinson presented the Grassroots Justice Prize last year, and paid a visit to network member Paralegal Advisory Service Institute in Malawi.
Here’s a short interview with Hina Jilani in The Hague:
Could the Task Force findings contribute to concrete change where you live? Do you have specific ideas about how The Elders can advance our movement? We want to hear from you.
Here are some useful resources in the meantime:
- The Task Force website
- The Hague Declaration on Access to Justice, adopted during the week of the meeting by ministers from 21 countries.
- The Elders’ new position paper on access to justice
- A policy brief on financing and protecting justice defenders, part of the network’s Justice for All campaign
- An article I wrote in Foreign Policy, on how we can achieve legal empowerment at scale.