Sustainable Development Indicators Risk Ignoring Most Peoples’ Justice Problems

Originally published at:
This resource is a blog post by Peter Chapman, program officer working on law and development with the Open Society Justice Initiative, that discusses the need for additional global indicators to track the progress of Sustainable Development Goal 16.3.


In view of the expected decision of the UN Statistical Commission, limiting the scope of the justice goal, it is imperative that civil society groups, and other agencies such as UNDP, should work collectively on a parallel (shadow) measurement of the countries’ fulfillment of Goal 16, beyond the official global indicators. After all, indicators cannot and should not, limit the strategic value of the goal. We should still hold the countries accountable for Goal 16 in its original, broad, sense, and an effective way of doing it is to have a global tracking system on the achievements under Goal 16.


@marlonmanuel I’ve been in discussions this week with fellow civil society and UNDP on exactly this topic. It seems that there is interest to do this from civil society working on issues across Goal 16. The World Justice Project is also going to be including a new 16.3 module in the Rule of Law Index this year which will look at perceptions on dispute resolution and access to independent legal services - the 2 global indicators which we have been pushing. This global data would be able to feed in to such a shadow report, but we are also interested in seeing who else could collect this data at the national and regional level - a mix of civil society, official statistics, international agencies and private sector. Another avenue is going to be advocating national governments to include our indicators in their national reporting and in regional bodies such as ASEAN - this approach would go a long way in proving the relevance, methodological soundness and universality of these indicators. These discussions should be fleshed out in the coming weeks and months and I will continue to update.

Just a quick point @staceycram (and @marlonmanuel) – the survey module we worked on for 16.3 seeks to measure actual experiences as opposed to perceptions of dispute resolution. There are subjective assessments of process, outcome, and why someone decided not to pursue a particular course of action or seek legal assistance. But the majority of questions focus on whether people had legal issues, whether they sought assistance and where they went to resolve them. This is limited to a particular time period (typically 12 to 48 months) and this experiential method is analogous to the approach in many other development sectors (health, food security, education, etc).

I agree with you both that effort should be focused at the national level, working with governments, development partners and civil society to strengthen our collective knowledge about what legal issues people have, where people get assistance and what institutions are most effective for resolution. These macro level statistics can help us make the case for our legal empowerment interventions.