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Access to Justice in International Forums

Access to Justice in International Forums

The Office for Access to Justice serves as the U.S. Government’s central authority on access to justice. Over the last decade, international activity around access to justice has taken root in a variety of forums, such as the Open Government Partnership, the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the Organization of American States, and the International Legal Aid Group.

This activity includes:

Open Government Partnership’s Collective Action on Access to Justice: During the 2016 Open Government Partnership Summit in Paris, France, governments and civil society organizations had the opportunity to join collective actions to support open government. The United States proposed a collective action on: “Supporting Justice for All through a focus on measurement and data collection,” which was included in the Summit’s outcome document. This builds on the United States inclusion of access to justice commitments in its third National Action Plan (NAP) for the Open Government Partnership, released on October 27, 2015.

UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: In 2016 at the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (UN Crime Commission), the United States introduced a groundbreaking resolution promoting access to indigent defense, including through the creation of a global network of defenders. Resolution25/2: Promoting legal aid, including through a network of legal aid providers builds on past international activity, most notably the adoption of the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems (A/RES/67/187) by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2012, which itself was co-sponsored by the United States. The resolution promotes access to criminal legal aid, translating Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, security, and access to justice adopted as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into new tools, guidance, and political support for indigent defense providers by advancing collaboration.

UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and Global Goal 16: On September 25, 2015, the U.N. unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development (Agenda), which included 17 Global Goals to end extreme poverty. Among those goals, Global Goal 16 calls on countries to: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” On the eve of the adoption of the Global Goals, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum formally establishing the Legal Aid Roundtable (LAIR), which was conceived of and is staffed by ATJ. Moreover, the 2030 Agenda calls for the creation of international, regional, and national indicators for all of its goals to help track their progress. In response, LAIR agencies launched the Working Group on Access to Justice Indicators and Data Collection to identify national indicators for Target 16.3. The working group was announced at a United Nations side-event in September 2016, described here. LAIR’s first annual report to the President also describes this work, as does this Fact Sheet.

Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s Equal Access to Justice Roundtables: In October and December 2015, ATJ participated in two expert roundtables on Equal Access to Justice organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) Secretariat under the auspices of OECD’s Public Governance Committee. Follow-up activity at the OECD continued in the fall 2016, with participation from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Continued activity is underway.