Access to Justice

Empowering individuals and communities

Justice is vital to secure rights and dignity for all. Yet many around the world – the poor, women, children and youth, migrants, ethnic and sexual minorities – struggle to access it.


IDLO’s work on promoting access to justice is much more than access to a formal court. It is about realizing social justice, and addressing marginalization and inequality through the restoration of rights that have been ignored or denied. We recognize that direct provision of legal services, which include information, counselling, legal advice and representation, and cost-effective dispute resolution mechanisms can provide an important empowering pathway to accountability and redress.

To enhance access to justice, on the one hand, we support institutional and legal reforms and on the other, we empower civil society and rights-holders to ensure that:

Access to justice and rights of women and girls are upheld: Many women face challenges in accessing legal and justice institutions, and even when they do, outcomes are rarely in line with international standards or constitutional guarantees of equality, because those sectors and legal arrangements most relevant to women, such as family courts, legal aid for family proceedings or small claims tribunals, are often poorly resourced or insensitive to women’s needs.

“Conventional” legal and justice reform initiatives, often, ignore personal laws relating to family, inheritance, and property that affect women adversely, or do not integrate gender perspectives into capacity and competency programs for legal and justice actors. IDLO seeks to uphold the human rights of women and girls and promote their access to justice.

Legal services for poor and marginalized communities are provided: The infrastructure of justice has an important role in realizing social justice and addressing marginalization and inequality, as people living in poverty struggle to access basic legal services and safeguard their rights, interests and assets. 

Our approach to legal services focuses on legal and institutional reform that promotes inclusivity and targeted services for poor and marginalized communities; and empowering those whose rightsare at risk to access justice through costeffective dispute resolution mechanisms. This also builds greater trust and confidence in the justice sector.

The right to health of marginalized and vulnerable groups is strengthened: Though protection and promotion of health is fundamental to human dignity, legal frameworks remain inadequate and implementation uneven. National health indicators often hide pockets of inequality, especially among women, girls, minorities and other marginalized populations, resulting from multiple factors, including discrimination and the lack of access to appropriate health services.

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Our work focuses on building capacity to strengthen legal frameworks for public health, empowering civil society to hold governments accountable for public health outcomes, and strengthening legal services to address discrimination and access to health care and services.

In Afghanistan, Liberia and Mongolia, IDLO works to improve justice for survivors of gender-based violence. Our interventions in Mali and Myanmar seek to bring end-users and justice institutions together, while at the same time contributing to peace-building. In Africa, Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa, IDLO has worked to improve access to HIV services using legal approaches.