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Evaluating ‘Access to Justice’ in Informal Justice Systems: A Suggestive Framework

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Establishing human rights benchmarks for a rigorous engagement with informal justice systems and plural legal orders has become a significant concern for the United Nations. Through resolutions of the General Assembly, attention has been drawn to ensuring that legal systems reflect cultural diversity and within the domain, especially of indigenous peoples’ rights, importance has been placed on securing and recognizing these distinct legal, socio-political, and cultural institutions because of their role as viable, accessible, affordable, and culturally relevant forms of dispute resolution. The UN Human Rights Committee has also observed that there should be interaction and reconciliation between formal and informal justice systems. This determination to engage with informal justice systems has also extended to the work of UN agencies such as UNDP, UN Women, and UNICEF who recognize that rule of law promotion must be responsive to the realities of countries where reform is to be undertaken, and should be carried out by focusing on developing bottom up approaches to reform. This paper responds to the increasing engagement with informal justice systems and a global audit culture by proposing a framework for evaluation that is reflective of these realities.


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