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Thematic reports

A/78/171: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite - The promise of legal empowerment in advancing access to justice for all


13 July 2023

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Independence of judges and lawyers

Human rights law guarantees access to independent and impartial legal systems that fulfil people’s justice needs. But if legal systems are ineffective at checking abuses and solving problems, if people cannot access legal institutions equally and if communities are left feeling alienated and disenfranchised, these systems are failing. An estimated 5.1 billion people – two-thirds of the Earth’s population – lack meaningful access to justice. Behind this statistic are lives lost, dreams crushed and conflicts sparked. People-centred justice responds to the enormity and urgency of the gap between rights and reality. It acknowledges that tinkering around the edges or doubling down on doing things the way we have always done them will not ensure access to justice for all. By supporting the ability of communities to know and use the law, legal empowerment – one kind of people-centred justice intervention – can expand access to justice in a rapid, relatively inexpensive and concrete way. Going further, by equipping communities with tools to shape laws and transform unfair and harmful laws, legal empowerment helps to democratize legal systems. By placing people and communities at the heart of the debate and by enhancing their ability to make their voices heard, people-centred justice approaches also respect the inherent dignity of all members of the human family, as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and set out as a foundational tenet of the United Nations human rights system.

Issued By:

Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

Delivered To:

General Assembly, Seventy-eighth session