Guest Post From World Bank’s Paul Prettitore on Legal Aid in Jordan

Here is a fascinating guest post from Paul Prettitore of the World Bank on knowlege of, and access to, legal aid in Jordan.  Readers will find many resonances, and also many differences.  I think we have a lot to learn from each other.  (Disclosure: I have been working with Paul on ways of spreading innovation ideas in societies such as this — as well as learning from their experiences.)

Justice Sector Services and Poverty in Jordan

The Government of Jordan has taken a considerable step towards better understanding of the needs of the poor within the justice sector of Jordan.  The ‘Statistical Survey on the Volume of Demand of Legal Aid Services’ (Legal Aid Survey) was administered to 10,000 households throughout Jordan in 2012.  I have been working on justice sector issues in Jordan for about five years, primarily through a program to develop legal aid services delivered by civil society, in this case the Justice Center for Legal Aid (JCLA).  An interesting video on the work of JCLA can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo_FmraV9oI

I have been lucky enough over the last several months to have access to data from the Legal Aid Survey thanks to the Department of Statistics.  We have disaggregated this data by the expenditure level of respondents.   The findings have been both predictable and surprising.  They suggest the following:

Poor persons have higher demand for, but reduced access to, court and lawyer services

  • More than two-thirds (68%) of survey respondents reporting an actionable dispute fall into the two lowest categories of expenditure levels, with only 6% falling into the highest expenditure category

Differing priorities been richer and poorer respondents

  • Respondents in the lower expenditure categories were much more likely to be involved in personal status (family law) disputes, such as divorce, alimony, child support, inheritance and access to dowries, than richer respondents – around 80% of those in the lower expenditure categories versus roughly 20% in the highest expenditure categories
  • Within the category of personal status cases, poorer respondents were more likely to be involved in alimony and inheritance cases, and richer respondents in cases involving separation/divorce and return of dowries
  • Overall, poorer persons form the bulk of respondents affected by personal status disputes, as highlighted in the figure below

Lack of knowledge of, and access to, legal aid services

  • 98% of survey respondents were unaware of existing legal aid services
  • Of the 2% of respondents aware of legal aid services, only 17% tried to access them, with the primary reasons for not accessing services being lack of knowledge of how to reach service providers (35%), not actually needing services (33%), and complicated procedures for accessing services (27%)
  • On a more positive note, 78% of respondents that sought legal aid services were able to secure them

In addition to the above findings, the survey also demonstrates that state-sponsored legal aid services are poorly targeted from a poverty standpoint.  Jordanians are only entitled to legal aid only for serious criminal cases.  And even that system, administered through the Bar Association and courts, provides relatively few services.  Legal aid has been mostly unavailable for civil cases in general, and personal status cases in particular, which.  The provision of legal aid by civil society is starting to fill this gap.  Personal status cases are also ripe for the development of self-help mechanisms.  These cases fall under the mandate of religious courts, which do not require parties be represented by lawyers and for which fees for court services are minimal or non-existent.  Hopefully, the Government of Jordan will pursue this issue by experimenting further with different mechanisms of legal aid service delivery.

For more information on this topic, follow this link to a World Bank Quick Note: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTMENA/Resources/QN96.pdf

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About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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