Hello friends! Yet another (shameless?) plug: I recently organized an Online Symposium for the Harvard Human Rights Journal on access to justice, particularly via customary and informal systems, and we received a range of fascinating submissions from scholars and practitioners around the world. Read more below and check out these illuminating articles:
From the Informal to the Formal: Examining Access to Justice and Customary Justice Mechanisms
The HHRJ Online Symposium this year centers on issues of access to justice to the poor around the world, with a particular focus on examining the challenges that exist within informal, customary and traditional mechanisms of dispute resolution.
In many countries, the formal state-governed justice system exists alongside various informal methods of justice delivery and dispute resolution, often termed “informal,” “non-state,” “traditional,” or “customary” mechanisms. Due to the barriers faced by litigants attempting to access the formal justice system, many have began to shift a focus to informal methods of dispute resolution in a range of cases – such as family law, land and property disputes, and issues of economic and social rights. There has been an increased emphasis on mediations and on engaging with informal justice mechanisms that already exist at the grassroots level, such as the shalish in Bangladesh, the bashingantahe in Burundi, or the shura Jirga in Afghanistan. Although informal systems of dispute resolution are often more accessible and familiar to communities, they come with their own challenges and considerations, particularly in relation to gender and human rights norms.
Alongside such concerns, however, there have been innovations and experiments that are promising in their initial stages, improving access to justice in ways that comport with human rights norms, both via formal state-run systems as well as NGO-led and non-state mechanisms. We have published five pieces by leading scholars, academics and practitioners in this field that build upon this theme and explore in greater depth the complexities inherent in working to promote grassroots access to justice to communities, and especially the added questions raised by customary justice systems:
- Sandra F. Joireman, Rebuilding Communities after Violent Conflict: Informal Justice Systems and Resource Access
- Thuto Thipe, The Boundaries of Tradition: An Examination of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act
- Jeanmarie Fenrich and Mary McEvoy, Promoting Rule of Law in Customary Tribunals in Ghana
- Neamatollah Nojumi, The Merits of Non-State Justice: An Effective Mechanism for a Stable Afghanistan
- Richard C. Crook and Kojo Asante, The State, ‘Hybrid Institutions’ and the Provision of More Accessible Justice in Africa: the Case of Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice