Ensuring delivery of justice sector services to the poor is an important element in addressing poverty and inequality, since the poor often have only limited means to protect and enforce their rights. The reality in many MNA countries is that services existing in law and regulation do not always function in practice, especially where the poor are concerned.
Recently, the World Bank – through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) - has begun to focus on improving service delivery as a means to supporting justice sector reform and development. In Jordan and Iraq, this includes: services covering disputes involving personal status issues, such as inheritance, alimony and child support; services involving criminal law matters, such as pre-trial detention and legal representation; and the provision of free legal representation and information to poor persons.
IImproved service delivery has meant that through the Jordan Center for Legal Aid network, more than 700 poor persons have received legal counseling, and more than 180 poor persons have received legal representation in court. The referral network and pro bono lawyers network, which have been recently established, has meant that the reach of legal aid services to the poor now extends throughout Amman, and slowly to areas outside of Amman. The Ministry of Social Welfare has recently agreed to refer poor women in need of assistance to the Justice Center for Legal Aid. In general, poor persons seeking legal aid will now have more options, will be able to receive more services in one location, and will have a higher quality of representation.
IBRD has work with partners such as the High Judicial Council, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, the High Committee for Poverty Reduction, the Law Faculty of the University of Baghdad in Iraq; the Shura Council, Ministry of Justice and Council of Ministers in the Kurdish Regional Government; and the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Welfare, Justice Center for Legal Aid and private lawyers in Jordan.
Toward the Future
Reform of the justice sector has been historically difficult in the MNA region for a number of reasons, not least because of the political nature of supporting a strong and independent judiciary in states with inefficient checks and balances on power. While other donors, such as the US Agency for International Development and the European Commission, have focused, and continue to focus, on providing ‘judicial hardware’, the Bank has developed a complimentary approach to providing technical assistance, which is its strategic advantage. Addressing delivery of services, primarily those related to civil as opposed to criminal law, also provides a more direct impact on the public and is less likely to be considered politically sensitive.