True democracy is founded on the rule of law, and becomes an illusion if justice is not available for all. Formal recognition of rights by legal systems does not automatically imply their practical implementation, while those denied access to the justice system risk having their rights ignored or violated. Access to justice is therefore the most basic civic right in any modern democratic state claiming to guarantee the protection of equal rights for all.
The United Nations Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor estimates more than half of the world's population fall outside the effective protection of the law. On current figures, this means around 3.8 billion people cannot claim their most basic rights via the justice system, which in turn often results in social and political exclusion, or marginalization, of both legal issues and citizens, but especially the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.
The Global Access to Justice Project aims to research and identify practical solutions to this “access” problem by forming an international network of scholars drawn from all over the globe, and on an unprecedented scale. Through collaboration between leading experts representing diverse cultures, disciplines and nations, and wherever possible including First Nation and other excluded peoples at the margins of society, the project is gathering the very latest information on the impact of the world’s major justice systems, analyzing legal, economic, social, cultural and psychological barriers that prevent or inhibit many, and not only the poor, from entering and using the legal system.
This project offers much more than a conceptual analysis of justice in the contemporary world. Grounded in empirical and comparative analysis of legal processes, while drawing upon practical human experience, it documents the attempts, achievements, and failures of all those struggling to deliver justice in the so-called real world. And because of its unique multi-dimensional epistemological approach, and broad geographical reach, the project has the ambition to become the most comprehensive survey ever conducted on access to justice to date. We invite your participation and welcome your contribution by subscribing to the project.