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Justice for the Poor Program

Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank 

Justice institutions are crucial for good governance and sustainable development, as underlined by the World Bank’s World Development Report 2006, Equity and Development. The World Development Report 2011, Conflict, Security and Development likewise highlights the importance of justice – along with citizen security and economic opportunity – in breaking cycles of fragility and conflict.

Justice institutions play a key role in the distribution of power and rights. They also underpin the forms and functions of other institutions that deliver public services and regulate access to resources.

Legitimate and effective justice institutions can help create the enabling conditions for social and economic development by challenging and correcting inequitable practices and addressing grievances. While there is increasing recognition of the importance of the role legitimate and effective justice systems play in development, there remains only a limited understanding of how such equitable systems emerge, and how international actors can support this process. While experience in promoting legal and judicial reform has generated some partial successes and lessons learnt, there is a growing understanding that conventional approaches in justice reform often miss important contests around rights and entitlements that occur across and within broader justice systems.

The Justice for the Poor (J4P) Program is an attempt by the World Bank to grapple with some of the theoretical and practical challenges of promoting justice reform. The program works in countries where legal pluralism presents a particular development challenge and necessarily focuses on identifying and supporting substantive justice outcomes rather than pursuing predetermined institutional structures. The program is marked by three essential characteristics:

  • Engaging with the justice sector as a whole, working with the range of justice institutions present in each country including state, non-state, and hybrid systems.
  • Designing and implementing innovative justice initiatives across development sectors, recognizing that rights and accountability are instrumental to achieving broader development outcomes.
  • Grounding projects in evidence-based approaches as improving justice outcomes and processes of reform requires better understanding of existing structures and dynamics.

Established in 2001, the program currently implements research and operational projects in East Asia and Pacific, South Asia and Africa. The program in East Asia and Pacific is a joint collaboration with, and is substantially funded by, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

Visit the Justice for the Poor Program website for more information:

Download the J4P program’s two page print brochure here.

Last updated: 2012-03-09

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