Providing accessible justice is a state obligation under international human rights standards, but this obligation does not require that all justice be provided through formal justice systems. If done in ways to respect and uphold human rights, the provision of justice through informal justice systems is not against human rights standards and can be a mechanism to enhance the fulfilment of human rights obligations by delivering accessible justice to individuals and communities where the formal justice system does not have the capacity or geographical reach.
This study seeks to identify how engagement with informal justice systems can build greater respect and protection for human rights. It highlights the considerations that development partners should have when assessing whether to implement programmes involving informal justice systems, the primary consideration being that engagement with the informal justice systems neither directly nor inadvertently reinforces existing societal or structural discrimination – a consideration that applies to working with formal justice systems as well. The study also examines the value of informal justice systems in offering, in certain contexts, flexible structures and processes, cost-effectiveness and outreach to grassroots communities.
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