Researcher TISCO, Tilburg University
Big injustice, big attention…
This post is the second in a series of six. In the coming period, you can find weekly blogposts that will present the highlights from the report "Innovating Justice: Towards Basic Justice Care for Everyone". Each of these posts will introduce a topic to be discussed during the Innovating Justice Forum of April 16-17 in The Hague.
In the first blog in this series Maurits Barendrecht discussed the mesmerising effect of the social media campaign to hold Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony accountable for the terrible crimes that he and his accomplices committed. Perhaps it is normal that our collective consciousness is so powerfully captivated by extreme examples of injustice. The United States today is split over the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Cambodians are still hoping that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia will deliver its second verdict for the atrocities committed more than 30 years ago.
Are the legal problems in everyday life less important?
Justice is also part of everyday life. A powerful video produced by the Ukrainian International Renaissance Foundation lets the people from Zakotne, a small village in the Lugansk region, talk about their needs for justice. For them justice means fair compensation for their hard work. Caught in the grips of greedy middle men and corrupt public officials, the farmers need protection and assistance. In their world justice is about the availability or lack of safeguards for their most valuable assets – work, family, friends, children and property.
Such types of justice needs are not in the news. They do not generate a lot of twitter clatter. It is unlikely that the Ukrainian video will become the next ‘Kony 2012’. In the forthcoming Trend Report “Innovating Justice: Towards Basic Justice Care for Everyone" we claim that these “small” problems do not only matter but that these should be one of the priorities for the justice system. They are important because these are the problems that billions of people face every year, every week and every day.
How much do we need justice?
Analyzing empirical research from various countries, we estimate that on average every person experiences at least one serious legal problem every five to ten years. This is a rather conservative estimation. In all likelihood, many people have bruises with the law much more often than that. For instance, a survey research in Ukraine reports that 54% of the respondents had to deal with at least one justiciable problem in the preceding three years. In Canada, study from 2009 finds that about 45% had to deal with a legal problem during the past three years.
What are the problems of the people?
Our Trend Report on Basic Justice Care also looks at the types of problems that people experience. Which are the most frequent problems? Which legal problems have the most severe impact on people’s lives? Clearly, the preponderance varies by country and perhaps by stages of socio-economic development. In more affluent consumer societies problems of consumption, employment, debt and family relationships are experienced most frequently. In transitioning countries, public services and disputes with neighbours have high prevalence. People from less developed countries frequently experience problems with personal security and inadequate protection of property rights.
Basic justice needs relate to people’s most important relationships
In summary, in the Trend Report we claim that people need justice and basic justice care in their everyday live. The Trend Report also shows that the most pressing needs to justice tend to occur in the vital and close relationships on which people count for survival, prosperity and attainment of life goals. Systemic failures to respond to justice needs deprive people and communities from chances to develop and prosper.
The promise of basic justice care for everyone
On a positive note, the availability of basic justice care for everyone will contribute to empowerment, growth and peace. Achieving these goals is not impossible, but requires greater attention and innovative solutions.