Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

Consultation on Customary and Informal Justice Systems

Achieving Justice For All

Recurring estimates show that globally, more than 80% of legal disputes are resolved outside of the formal courts through customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems. The vast majority of these justice seekers are women, poor people, minority groups and marginalized communities. While widespread and critically important to many individuals and communities, CIJ systems are often left out of discussions held at the international level.

In 2019, IDLO launched global consultations on CIJ with the aim of advancing policy dialogue and distilling lessons from programming and research to make justice accessible for all. As part of the global consultations, a series of events, workshops and roundtable discussions were organized with international, justice sector and civil society partners, as well as diplomatic missions and academic institutions. In addition, an online survey sought to collect views from a diverse set of stakeholders around the world.

CIJ systems carry many benefits, including affordability, flexibility, speed and cultural relevancy. They tend to be more accessible compared to the formal justice sector – especially to vulnerable and marginalized populations – and enjoy high levels of trust within communities. At the same time, it is well recognized that CIJ systems are deeply rooted in cultural, traditional or religious norms that are not always in line with international standards of human rights and some national constitutions.

IDLO’s dialogue with stakeholders throughout 2019 confirmed that enhancing access to equitable and quality justice for all will only become viable if we recognize that the state is not the sole justice provider. It is crucial to engage with and strengthen the variety of justice actors and mechanisms used by individuals, particularly for those who are marginalized, to resolve their disputes through context-specific, inclusive and innovative ways. As the international community races to realize the 2030 Agenda, continuing the conversation around CIJ systems – their value added, tensions and complexities – will be critical to ensuring no one is left behind.

  Timeline of Global Consultations

  IDLO's Publications on Customary and Informal Justice

  Public Survey

  Featured Content

Timeline of 2019 Global Consultations on Customary and Informal Justice Systems

4 February: The Hague

Customary and Informal Justice Systems: Navigating Complex Pathways Towards Justice for All

To mark the launch of its global consultations and the publication of two Briefs on customary and informal justice, IDLO hosted an event and interactive dialogue on the engagement between formal and customary and informal justice systems, during which justice leaders from Kenya and Kyrgyzstan shared national experiences and insights.



15 March: New York

Women and Customary and Informal Justice Systems

IDLO with the support of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya), Landesa, the Uganda Women's Network (UWONET) and Rights + Resources (RRI) organized a side event at the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women to provide space for an open consultation on the relationship between women and customary and informal justice systems, on legal pluralism and on the intersection of formal and informal systems.



28 May: Rome

Leaving No One Behind: Engaging with Customary and Informal Justice Systems to Provide Justice for All

IDLO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) convened a side event at the Global Conference on SDG 16 to explore ways of addressing the needs of justice seekers while ensuring respect for human rights within the context of customary and informal justice systems.



16 September - 27 October: Global

Online consultation on customary and informal justice systems

IDLO ran a public survey aimed at bringing together a wide range of perspectives in a global conversation about customary and informal justice to inform the work of decision makers, policymakers and influencers at national and international levels.



17 September: Geneva

Indigenous Justice and Human Rights

IDLO participated in a panel discussion organized by the International Commission of Jurists and the UN Special Rapporteur to discuss the essential role of indigenous justice systems in relation to human rights.



9 October: The Hague

Engaging with Informal Systems to Enhance Justice for Women

IDLO convened a two-day roundtable with practitioners, policymakers and representatives of women’s groups from around the world to discuss how to engage with customary and informal systems to enhance justice for women and girls. IDLO with the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law also co-organized a HagueTalks public dialogue on how to make justice a reality for women and girls who use customary and informal justice systems.



10 October: New York

Customary and Informal Justice Providers Accelerating Achievement of SDG 16

IDLO, Cordaid, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Pathfinders organized a public dialogue to better understand how efforts to achieve SDG16+ can engage with the reality of customary and informal justice systems.



17 October: Geneva

Customary and Informal Justice Systems: Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice for All

IDLO and the Graduate Institute’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy convened a public event and expert roundtable to gain deeper reflection on access to justice through customary and informal systems, provide greater insight into tensions with human rights imperatives, and facilitate the identification of culturally appropriate, sustainable and effective paths for policy, programming and further research.



IDLO's Publications on Customary and Informal Justice

The consultations were backed by a series of publications, Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice, that draw heavily on IDLO’s research and programs as well as the experience of others. The first two publications – a Policy and Issue Brief providing policy recommendations, and a Practitioner Brief giving practical entry points for development practitioners – highlight the importance of understanding the context in which such systems operate, with the aim of improving justice outcomes and delivery for end users. The third focuses on women and CIJ

A series of publications titled “Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems” seeks to advance policy dialogue and distil lessons from programming and research, to help realize Sustainable Development Goal 16. This Policy and Issue Brief presents...
This Practitioner Brief offers a set of concrete tools, recommendations and good practices to support engagement with customary and informal justice systems...
Women and Customary and Informal Justice Systems focuses on the relationship between women and customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems. It brings together current research, expert perspectives and programmatic experience, addressing: »»the evolution of legal and policy debates on women and CIJ; »»challenges women encounter in accessing justice through CIJ systems; »»gender-focused engagement entry points, modalities, and good practices for CIJ systems; and »»policy recommendations to...


Public Survey

From 16 September to 27 October 2019, IDLO ran an online survey aimed at collecting views from a diverse set of stakeholders around the world. The survey asked participants to share their views on preferred terminology, the prominence CIJ systems should be given, effective ways to engage with them, and their main advantages and challenges. Our survey report presents a summary of the findings as well as interesting examples shared by the participants.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey!  


Featured Content

The chairwoman of the Kyrgyz Aksakal courts system, Zamira Mamakeeva, spoke at an IDLO event in The Hague, and gave an inspirational account of how customary justice in Kyrgyzstan complements the state courts.

Watch the video

African high-level jurists, experts and legal scholars met in Nairobi for the East Africa Regional Forum on Alternative Dispute Resolution & Customary and Informal Justice, organized by IDLO, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Judiciary of Kenya.

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