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IDLO Director-General, Jan Beagle's Statement on The High-Level Dialogue on Customary and Informal Justice and Sustainable Development Goal 16+

Colleagues and friends,

On behalf of the International Development Law Organization, the only global intergovernmental organisation exclusively devoted to promoting the rule of law to advance peace and sustainable development, I would like to say what a pleasure it has been to take part in this important Dialogue.

As we bring the event to a close, let me first extend a warm thanks to our chair Sara Pantuliano, and to ODI for hosting this timely and rich discussion.
Today, we celebrated the public debut of the Working Group, and launched its ambitious Joint Action Plan. The plan offers a comprehensive roadmap to guide future support to customary and informal justice systems and close the SDG16+ implementation gap in the lead-up to the 2023 SDG Summit.

Across today’s discussions, a common message was repeated again and again: access to justice for all. and SDG 16, cannot be achieved without effective and strengthened engagement with customary and informal justice systems.

This is why the mandate of the Working Group is more crucial than ever. IDLO is pleased to be a member of this important initiative.

For over a decade, IDLO has been a leader in research and programming on customary and informal justice.  

Our dedication to this issue is founded on a simple fact: we cannot achieve the goal of justice for all by 2030 without making customary and informal systems part of the solution.

Allow me to share three insights from IDLO’s experience on why this initiative is so important.

First, realising equal access to justice for all requires engaging with the systems that most people —especially the poorest and most excluded groups —already turn to.

Customary and informal justice systems enjoy high levels of use and acceptance in the communities where they are rooted. In order to reach the targets of SDG 16, justice stakeholders need to recognise the legitimacy of these systems and integrate them into broader efforts to achieve justice for all.

Secondly, engaging strategically with customary and informal justice systems is essential to ensuring greater respect for human rights. In some contexts these systems perpetuate structured discrimination, unequal power relations or harmful practices, particularly with respect to women and girls. Linking these systems to formal justice systems, and providing capacity building and other support, can help to protect the rights and interests of marginalized and vulnerable groups.

This brings me to my third point, we need to pay particular attention to the rights of women and girls in customary and informal justice systems, to advance progress on SDG5 on gender equality.

Some of the most common justice issues that women face – such as inheritance and property disputes, and gender-based violence – are resolved or adjudicated through informal systems. They must be gender-responsive.

IDLO is proud member of the global coalition working towards a more people centred approach to justice. We have a unique opportunity to reimagine and redesign justice systems that are grounded in a better understanding of people’s justice needs and the diverse pathways by which they seek to resolve disputes. As we have heard today, engaging with customary and informal justice systems is an essential part of this effort.

It is great to see the level of enthusiasm and energy here today.

IDLO is committed to working with you through our programmes, research and policy advocacy to achieve our shared objective of ensuring access to justice for all.