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Access to Justice for the Poor


Improving, facilitating and expanding individual and collective access to law and justice supports economic and social development. Legal reforms give the poor the opportunity to assert their individual and property rights; improved access to justice empowers the poor to enforce those rights. Increasing accessibility to courts lessens and overcomes the economic, psychological, informational and physical barriers faced by women, indigenous populations, and other individuals who need its services. New legislation, subsidized legal services, alternative dispute resolution, citizen education programs, court fee waivers and information technology, are other means to improve access. This page provides resources on ways to improve access to law and justice for the poor.
E-Forum on Justice for the Poor



  Access to Justice Movement

5  Measuring Need for Legal and Judicial Services

5  Barriers to Access to Justice for the Poor

5  Strategies to Overcome Access to Justice Barriers

5  Lessons from Developed Countries

Access to Justice Movement

The lack for the poor of access to justice is oftentimes an entry point for reform. The approaches have evolved over time so we can now look back on a history and wealth of lessons of the “Access to Justice Movement”.

Access to Justice -- Topic Brief

This topic brief provides an overview of the history and lessons of the Access to Justice Movement. Since the 1960s, reformers have called for changes in national legal systems to enhance “access to justice" for disadvantaged groups and citizens at large. The concept arose in an era of the welfare state and growing rights consciousness, and was usually identified with committing the state to increasing social services and widening opportunities for dispute resolution.


Barriers to Access to Justice

Access to justice involves a process which enables people to claim and obtain justice remedies through formal or informal institutions of justice. In many societies, there are obstacles to obtaining access to justice, and people's inability to claim justice remedies may be caused by a variety of reasons. Reform projects may aim at overcoming the barriers to access to justice for the poor. As a first step, this implies the identification of these barriers. The Practitioner's Guide developed by UNDP in 2005 maps the obstacles to Access to Justice for the Poor. It also identifies reform strategies to overcome them. The barriers identified are the following:

Strategies to Overcome Access to Justice Barriers

After identifying obstacles to Access to Justice for the Poor, reform projects have to define strategies to overcome these barriers. This section provides information on various reform strategies.

  Legal Empowerment
5  Legal Information and Public Awareness
5  Right to Court Access
5  Legal Aid
5  Pro Bono Work
6  Public Interest Litigation
7.gif  Small Claims Tribunals
8  Informal Justice Systems

Lessons from Developed Countries

Reforming Civil Justice Systems: Trends in Industrial Countries —PREM Note #46

Civil justice reform efforts in industrial countries face common problems in increasing access to justice and reducing costs and delays. These efforts also confront a common obstacle -- the legal profession's interest the status quo.



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