Lack of access to a fair and equitable justice system is one of the most pressing problems confronting modern Somalia on its path towards stability and reconstruction. Rebuilding Somalia’s formal justice system is a highly challenging, complex, and long-term undertaking. In fact, there have not been any effective formal justice institutions in the country for over two decades.
Customary and Informal Justice
Customary and informal justice (CIJ) describes justice and conflict resolution mechanisms that operate outside the formal system of state-based laws and courts, ranging from traditional and indigenous systems to local alternative dispute resolution. CIJ systems tend to be cheaper, more accessible, and better trusted than formal systems; they emphasize restorative justice, flexible rules and procedures, and negotiated solutions that are culturally resonant. However, they often operate in ways not consistent with international human rights standards and reflect unequal power dynamics and conservative social norms, with adverse effects on women and other excluded groups.
The case for engaging with CIJ systems is straightforward: the vast majority of justice seekers claim their rights and resolve their problems outside of formal courts, and their first resort is to CIJ. With more than five billion people lacking access to justice, CIJ systems must be included in efforts to achieve justice for all in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Those at greatest risk of being left behind by formal justice systems are also the main users of CIJ systems, including women and girls, young people, indigenous communities, people in remote and rural areas, and the poorest households.
IDLO is an established global leader in developing and advocating for solutions that bridge the justice gap by empowering people to realize their rights in CIJ systems. IDLO is committed to engaging with the diverse pathways available to justice seekers, especially women and other excluded groups, strengthening the accessibility, responsiveness, and accountability of CIJ providers, and ensuring they align with international human rights standards and cooperate with formal justice systems. IDLO seeks to promote innovative approaches, generate knowledge, and influence policy in ways that centre CIJ in the global justice agenda, including through its key role in establishing the Working Group on CIJ and SDG16+. Delivering access to people-centred justice for all will be viable only if there is recognition that that the state is not the sole justice provider.
IDLO's Publications on Customary and Informal Justice:
Community Paralegals and Customary and Informal Justice
Community Paralegals and Customary and Informal Justice explores how community-based paralegals and other legal aid providers can strengthen the accessibility and inclusiveness of customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems.
Accessing Justice: Somalia's Alternative Dispute Resolution Centers
Accessing Justice: Somalia's Alternative Dispute Resolution Centers reviews structural, procedural, and normative dimensions of justice in six Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centers in Somalia, documenting insights from ADR Coordinators, Clerks, paralegals, and Adjudicators as well as users of the Centers.View more
Issue Brief: Women and 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.View more
Policy and Issue Brief: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems
In a bid to make justice accessible for all, IDLO has launched a series of Consultations on customary and informal justice systems. The global dialogue is informed by a series of publications titled “Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems” that seeks to advance policy dialogue and distil lessons from programming and research, to help realize Sustainable Development Goal 16.View more
Practitioner Brief: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems
In a bid to make justice accessible for all, IDLO has launched a series of Consultations on customary and informal justice systems. The global dialogue is informed by a series of publications titled “Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems” that seeks to advance policy dialogue and distil lessons from programming and research, to help realize Sustainable Development Goal 16. This Practitioner Brief offers a set of concrete tools, recommendations and good practices to support engagement with customary and informal justice systems.
“I come from Bangladesh, a country which also has enormous problems about the denial of justice, and about efforts and the measures that are being taken to strengthen people’s capacity to access justice. But, it was here in Africa, that I learned what it can mean, in real terms, for the people. And I will tell you now the story of Rosie.”
In Kyrgyzstan, members of Aksakal courts (Elders courts) expressed an interest in receiving training on their legal jurisdiction and on carrying out their mandate from members of the formal justice system. In April 2017, IDLO facilitated a training program for members from the Chui region (oblast).
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In 2012, the Federal Government of Somalia took office with international backing after two decades of warfare. Since then, the government has developed a National Stabilization Strategy (NSS) to address enduring areas of conflict in the country with ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ reconciliation and clan-conflict reduction strategies. While commendable for its multifaceted response, there is a recognized need to improve rule of law at the community level.
IDLO's Victoria Harrison Neves, spoke to our Country Representative for Myanmar, Kartik Sharma, about the transition underway in that country, the opportunities for supporting the rule of law at this time, and the practicalities of working in such an environment.
IDLO - When did you arrive in Myanmar?
“There is no peace and security without democratic governance and development.
(Rome, Italy) June 9, 2016
Africa-wide collaboration on strengthening the rule of law will play a key role in realizing international development goals.
This was the consensus at the end of a two-day rule of law and development meeting convened by the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and the Government of Tanzania last week.
While showing steady progress, the formal justice system in Somalia remains fragile. Somalis continue to use traditional dispute resolution (TDR) mechanisms to resolve conflicts in their communities due to their physical accessibility, low cost and legitimacy in the eyes of local participants. The TDR system has the potential to improve access to justice in Somalia, but at the same time informal justice can reinforce forms of discrimination and support practices that do not comply with international human rights standards.
IDLO is rolling out a program that aims to secure accessible, quality and sustainable justice services for citizens - particularly those living in rural, poor and other disadvantaged communities. The Community Justice Programme (CJP) supports both state and non-state legal aid, legal empowerment and other justice delivery interventions.
The private sector is of central importance for The Gambia, a Least Developed Country where the availability of private capital from foreign and domestic investors is critical to promote sustainable economic growth, increase employment and ensure better living conditions.
The failure of criminal justice systems in the Sahel to deliver better quality justice can be linked to a series of interconnected factors, such as: the overwhelming lack of human, material and financial capacity; corruption and weak internal control mechanisms; and limitations on civil society to ensure respect for human rights.
Lack of access to a fair and equitable justice system is one of the most pressing problems confronting modern Somalia on its path towards stability and reconstruction. Informal justice systems, offering alternative dispute resolution are often much better placed to respond to the immediate justice needs of many Somalis seeking justice, as they have more legitimacy and are more easily accessible. To enhance access to justice in Somalia, it is therefore essential to engage with the alternative dispute resolution systems.
Achieving Justice For All