New Zealand Law Society - Two-thirds of global population estimated to have access to justice issues

Two-thirds of global population estimated to have access to justice issues

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An estimated 5.1 billion people - approximately two-thirds of the world's population - are believed to face at least one access to justice issue.

The Washington-based World Justice Project has released a report, Measuring the Justice Gap. This is described as a people-centred assessment of unmet justice needs around the world.

The report says the "justice gap" can be understood as the number of people who have at least one unmet justice need. "These are people who are ultimately not getting the justice they need for both everyday problems and severe injustices".

The WJP estimates that there are:

1.5 billion people who cannot obtain justice for civil, administrative, or criminal justice problems: These are victims of lethal violence (estimated at 559,590) and people with civil and administrative justice needs (1,424,968,786)  who may live in contexts with functioning institutions and justice systems, but who face obstacles to resolving their everyday justice issues. There are an estimated 1,081,149,644 people who are victims of non-violent crime but have not reported their victimisation to a competent authority and an estimated 235,032,390 victims of violence who have not reported their victimisation to a competent authority.

4.5 billion people who are excluded from the opportunities the law provides: These are people who lack legal tools – including identity documents (estimated at 1,100,369,677), proof of land or housing tenure (2,282,389,440), and formal work arrangements (2,113,236,000) – that allow them to protect their assets and access economic opportunities or public services to which they have a right.

253 million people who live in extreme conditions of injustice: This includes people who are stateless (estimated at 12,045,736), victims of modern slavery (40,289,000), and people who live in fragile states with high levels of insecurity (203,488,542).

The report says this aggregates to 5.1 billion people (an exact estimate of 5,115,217,983). It says there was a year-long process to design and operationalise the research. This included reviewing over 600 global and country-specific data sources.

"Despite the considerable amount of global data on justice issues that have been produced over the course of the last decade, this assessment nonetheless required extrapolations for some components of the justice gap with limited country coverage, highlighting an important data gap," it says.

"The WJP also devoted particular effort to estimating the extent of double counting across dimensions of the justice gap framework, and to developing measures for unmet civil and criminal justice need. The resulting justice gap estimates presented in this report represent the first-ever effort to integrate survey data with other sources of people-centered data on the nature and scale of injustice."

The research also identified three clusters of countries that share common challenges pertaining to everyday justice problems and legal protections:

Countries with high levels of unmet civil and administrative justice needs: These are high-income countries located in Western Europe and North America, where the vast majority of people within the justice gap have unmet civil justice needs pertaining primarily to consumer and housing-related disputes.

Countries with insufficient legal protections pertaining to employment and land/housing tenure: These are primarily middle-income countries that span all geographic regions, though this cluster also includes a few high income countries in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America. Populations in these countries are most likely to fall in the justice gap primarily because they are employed in the informal economy or because they lack land or housing tenure.

Countries with high levels of unmet criminal justice need and insufficient legal protections: These are low and lower-middle income countries located in Africa and Latin America. Populations in these countries may fall into the justice gap mainly because they are unreported victims of violent or non-violent crime, because they are employed in the informal economy, or because they lack legal identity and land or housing tenure.