International human rights principles recognize access to justice both as a basic human right and as a means to protect other universally recognized human rights. Too often, even when rights protections exist on paper, effective enforcement of these standards is weak. Where protections of human rights are lacking, marginalized groups are often vulnerable to abuses and face significant challenges to full realization of their rights, including within the formal justice system. Our programs employ a development approach that focuses on empowering individuals to assert their rights vis-à-vis the state, helping to nurture fairer, more accountable justice systems, and strengthening the frameworks that support human rights at the national, regional and international levels.
Our expansive view of access to justice includes not only one’s ability to access the courts and legal representation, but also one’s ability to engage fairly with law enforcement officials and to make use of informal, non-state justice mechanisms. Further, the Access to Justice Rule of Law Initiative, recognizes that civil society offers an effective counterbalance to the powers of the state and of the private sector, helping to support individuals and communities. We also often draw upon civil society organizations’ unique perspectives, grassroots convening power and institutional knowledge to enhance effective implementation and sustainability.
Increasing access to justice, a lack of effective indigent defense services, along with inadequate financial support and political will on the part of governments and bar associations, contribute to environments that deny access to justice for significant portions of the general public. To help, Access to Justice programs promote better access to courts, legal representation,on Pro-Bono and alternative dispute resolution.
Additionally, access to justice seeks to empower non-traditional legal resources, such as community-based paralegals, that often serve as a primary means by which the poor and marginalized—including women, indigenous groups and other minorities—settle disputes. We have extensive experience with traditional legal aid approaches, including legal clinics, traveling lawyer programs, civil and criminal legal aid programs and pro bono assistance, and with advocating for laws to establish such services. To the extent possible,Access to justice seeks to increase citizens’ understanding of their rights by incorporating education into legal service delivery, no matter the mechanism.
To refine Access to Human right & justice initiative, we developed an Access to Justice Assessment Tool (AJAT), which empowers civil society organizations to identify obstacles and to design and implement programming that addresses those challenges. Advancing human rights Respect for human rights serves as a foundation element in establishing a strong rule of law, providing stability to societies and nations alike. Our programs seek to increase the appreciation for, and application of, international and regional human rights norms within national justice systems. Through customized training for lawyers, judges, government officials, law professors and students, civil society organizations and the public,Access to Justice contributes toward the development of legal professionals who can uphold human rights and citizens who know to assert them.
We work alongside local human rights non-governmental organizations to help them achieve their goals and to foster legal norms that are protective of human rights. We also promote and facilitate the documentation and investigation of human rights abuses, support strategic litigation and advocacy, and protect human rights in business development.