Globally, most people do not resort to formal justice systems to address their justice problems. Rather, they rely on diverse pathways to justice often referred to collectively as “customary and informal justice” (CIJ). Delivering people-centred justice for all in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 (peaceful, just, and inclusive societies) and related targets requires governments, development partners, and civil society to engage with the empirical reality of CIJ and factor this into justice delivery and programming. Indeed, CIJ should be embraced as an indispensable source of solutions and learning about what works for people in resolving justice problems. 

Published by the Working Group on CIJ and SDG16+*, an international multi-stakeholder initiative formed in 2019, the report Diverse pathways to people-centred justice identifies five key approaches to engaging with CIJ systems:

  • Build and share knowledge, data, and evidence on CIJ
  • Empower CIJ users
  • Support and protect rights-based organizations working alongside CIJ
  • Foster coherence and collaboration in the justice ecosystem
  • Strengthen CIJ practice

The report issues a groundbreaking call to action in the form of recommendations representing a new consensus on engagement with CIJ amongst key stakeholders in the global justice community. That engagement is critical to achieving the goal (SDG16.3) of access to justice for all by 2030 and enabling progress on other SDGs. Recommendations for all those involved in justice delivery, be they donors, policymakers or practitioners include:

  1. Adopt a justice ecosystems approach to understand the diversity of justice providers and shape reform plans
  2. Deliver a step-change in justice support through expanded CIJ engagement to achieve justice for all by 2030
  3. Empower justice seekers, especially marginalised groups, to participate in and benefit from CIJ systems
  4. Advance women and girls’ participation and leadership and ensure the protection of their rights in CIJ systems
  5. Support development partners to engage with CIJ to deliver people-centred justice
  6. Increase investment in people-centred justice, including CIJ systems

*The Working Group is a multi-stakeholder network of more than 80 organizations and individuals committed to rights-based engagement with customary, indigenous, and other informal pathways to justice as an indispensable means of achieving justice for all.