George Soros blogged yesterday about his belief that access to justice should be one of the key measurable goals in the United Nations approach to eradicating poverty by 2030. He writes:
What does that mean? It means that anyone should know and be enabled to claim the protections and services due to them under the law, be it in a formal court, an administrative procedure or a community-based forum. It means that no one is left behind because they don’t have the right legal identity documents. It means that people should know about and play a role in shaping the laws and regulations that govern their lives, and that communities should have the power to manage their land and natural resources.
I am happy to join global leaders, development experts, and grassroots groups in endorsing a statement that sets out in more detail how these five principles can become measurable goals in the new global development framework. As UN members begin to prepare the first drafts of that new strategy for the world, this statement makes compelling reading.
It’s my hope that they hear this simple message: development needs justice. (Bold added)
Specifically, Soros joins a number of other internationally known leaders, including known-leaders such as US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, and former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, in urging that justice should be added to the UN development goals. The four page statement is here.
While the call refers to international development, so much of the above applies with equal force (if not necessarily the same overwhelming urgency) to the US as well and our efforts to deal with both poverty and inequality, including of opportunity.
Perhaps even more importantly, given how third-world-like many of our access institutions are, we need to figure out how US experiments with low-cost access strategies such as self-help, court simplification reform, and judicial education, might apply in lower income countries, particularly middle income countries, and conversely, how the experience with innovations in developing countries can inform our choices, including perhaps with expanded use of non-lawyers to assist in access. While it may be hard to admit that the US and developing world situations with respect to access to justice are closer than we would like, its better to face up to the truth.
For a blog post to where I discuss my recent work with the World Bank making these links, click here. Also, here is a great piece by Paul Prettitore of the Bank, with whom I have been working. It is on the legal aid initiative in Jordan.