A new development framework needs new strategies for eradicating poverty. Justice—a principle missing from the current Millenium Development Goals—needs to be part of the next generation of development efforts.
Justice is important enough to warrant its own goal. Lack of legal power and protection is a major reason why people fall into, and remain in, extreme poverty. Around the world, more than four billion people are living outside the reach of the law—mostly because they are poor.
Justice also cuts across most development issues—including health, education, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. So, integrating justice-related targets and indicators into other goals will also help to realize, sustain, and monitor gains in multiple sectors.
Increasingly, policy makers, governments, researchers, and, most importantly, people living in poverty are recognizing that justice is critical to improving lives and reducing poverty. There’s also an emerging consensus that justice is measurable.
Here are two possible ways that justice could be included in a post-2015 framework.
Justice as a stand-alone goal
An independent goal on justice would move the world beyond a traditional approach to poverty eradication. The goal could include a basket of targets—high-level objectives like ensuring universal access to primary justice services—supported by indicators to help track progress toward those targets. Potential targets could include legal identity, affordability of justice services, confidence in formal and customary forums, physical access to primary justice services, access to information, recognition of land and natural resource rights, or safety and security.
A number of states have already articulated justice-oriented goals or targets in their development agendas. The Government of Mongolia, for example, created an additional domestic MDG on governance and human rights. The G7 Plus—a group of 18 fragile states—includes high-level targets on both security and justice in their Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs). The G7 Plus has also developed indicators that focus on public confidence in the performance of formal and customary justice systems; prison population in pretrial detention; and peoples’ legal awareness.
Justice integrated into other goals
Justice impacts on a range of development sectors, such as health, education, environmental sustainability, and gender equality. Goals in these areas could include justice-oriented targets and supporting indicators.
For example, an environmental sustainability goal may include a justice target that aims to see increased land tenure security for local communities, as a means of enhancing their ability to invest wisely in their land and natural resources. Such a target might propose to double the amount of land over which local communities possess secure rights to own, use, and conserve.
A development goal on improving maternal health could include a non-justice target on addressing inequalities in the provision of health services. Justice indicators for this target, however, could track legislation ensuring healthcare access for all, as well as the existence of mechanisms for handling grievances in cases of unequal access. Access indicators could also be used by grassroots legal practitioners to identify and correct problems in service delivery.