Workshop Proceedings

Day 1: Regional Workshop on Access to Justice

July 2019 will see government representatives, civil society organizations and activists working on access to justice engage with the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) of the United Nations as they meet in New York to discuss what countries have done to advance SDGs as they reflect on the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of countries. This year, the spotlight is on issues on Access to Justice. In preparation for this meeting, a consortium of African and Asian Civil Society Organisations and government champions are meeting at a regional workshop in Johannesburg to map out strategies for Africa’s and Asia’s visibility and representation at the HLPF.

The first day of the regional workshop kicked off with welcoming remarks by representatives of the organisers- the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice (ACE-AJ) and the Dullah Omar Institute (DOI).

Deputy Minister of Justice, Hon John Jeffery

A keynote address was delivered by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Hon John Jeffery. His keynote address emphasised the importance for governments to continue to form partnerships especially with civil society, in the fulfilment of the SDGs. He stressed that at the heart of SDGs lies human rights, and human rights and access to justice are priority for the fulfilment of SDGs. In closing he reiterated that an active citizenry promotes human rights and fulfilling human rights remained the responsibility of all.

Lorenzo Wakefield, Mott Foundation

Lorenzo Wakefield from the Mott Foundation stressed the important role community paralegals play in advancing justice and the need for more active engagement by African Civil Society during the HLPF.

Sumaiya Islam, Open Society Justice Initiative

Sumaiya Islam from the Open Society Justice Initiative highlighted that although much progress has been made on the ground since the adoption of the SDGs, more needed to be done to create an enabling policy environment within which independent community justice services providers feel recognized, supported and encouraged. She also urged the UN to adopt a global civil justice indicator and strengthen public financing for access to justice initiatives.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa

Introductory remarks followed the keynote addresses. In his introductory remark, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, from the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa, highlighted the importance of the community advice offices that bring justice closer to people and stressed that through judgments, the judiciary could identify areas that can be harnessed in the legal systems to ensure access to justice for all, especially for poor and vulnerable persons. He noted that the formulation of the SDG agenda should be in the use of access to justice as a cross cutting tool. He closed by encouraging members of the judiciary to explore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in a bid to promote access to justice for all.

Justice Zione Ntaba, Judge of the High Court of Malawi

Justice Zione Ntaba, Judge of the High Court of Malawi, in her introductory remarks shared her experiences on the relevance and challenges of the formal justice system in realising access to justice for disadvantaged groups. She noted that justice is never discussed as a national priority, like education & health. She ended her remarks by reiterating the need for coordination and cooperation among government agencies to effectively deliver access to justice.

Ms Coco Lammers from NAMATI

The workshop continued with a session on ‘Engaging with the High Level Political Forum (HLPF)’ and research findings in this regard.  Ms Coco Lammers from NAMATI, started off the session with her presentation on Navigating the UN System around the HLPF and the Opportunities for Civil Society Organizations to Engage. Her presentation highlighted NAMATI’s work in six countries on advocacy, legal empowerment and to ensure that justice is included in the SDG16 Agenda. She noted that the idea of a global push is to have an agenda that enables various governments to discuss regional and global matters while putting political and global pressure to achieve this goal. She emphasised that CSO participation at the HLPF on SDG 16 is an opportunity to show the UN and the world the developments that will ensure a review of Goal 16. 

Ms Sarah Chamness Long, World Justice Project

Ms Sarah Chamness Long of the World Justice Project, discussed current research and survey on access to justice in the world. She presented research results for a combined perception-based and experience based survey of 126 countries on issues on access to justice. She added that the study engaged the three largest cities in every country, precisely to explore the issues. Some of the global findings indicated that consumer and housing problems were the most common. 52% reported legal problems- most of which preferred to resolve the problem with the other parties without recourse to the courts. As such the data from courts was not representative of the solution of legal problems. 1 out of 6 persons reported the failure to get an expert to solve the legal problem.

The first day of the workshop ended with a discussion on experiences from Asian counterparts on Voluntary National Review (VNR) processes and findings and exploring strategies to make VNRs reflective of the realities on the ground.


Day 2: Regional Workshop on Access to Justice

Mr Boroto Ntakobajira

On the second day of the workshop Mr Boroto Ntakobajira, kicked off the workshop with a succinct recap of the events of the previous day.

Prof David McQuid-Mason, University of KwaZulu - Natal

Professor David McQuid-Mason, from the University KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in his introductory remarks highlighted the differences between primary and secondary Legal Aid, hastening to add that some countries were moving from the use of legal aid for predominantly criminal to civil cases as well.

Prof David Advocate Brian Nair of Legal Aid South Africa

Advocate Brian Nair of Legal Aid South Africa, traced the historical underpinnings of legal aid in South Africa and noted that it was not until the end of apartheid that a number of judgements specifically called for the provision of legal aid to poor and disadvantaged groups.

Minister in the Presidency, Hon Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Minister in the Presidency, Hon Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, gave the keynote address to participants on the second day of the regional workshop. She commenced her opening speech by noting the historical synergy between Africa and Asia on ensuring social justice and freedom. She noted that it was important to be cognisant of how interrelated and mutually reinforcing all the SDGs are- it was impossible to achieve SDG 16 without paying attention to other SDGs. Having recently emerged from a very divided and discriminatory society, she said South Africa continues to pursue its healing by ensuring it jealously guards SDG 16. CSOs have an important role in lobbying for strong institutions which promotes justice and inclusivity, to ensure access to justice and equality before the law, she told the workshop. Unfortunately, she said, accessing the legal system in South Africa still remains very expensive. “Indigenous knowledge and legal systems must continually be explored as means of conflict resolution, in furtherance of SDG 16. If we are to achieve SDGs collectively, we must deal with the issues in developing countries to mitigate desperate immigration to developed economies. CSOs must continue to amplify their voices in this regard.”

Participants broke into groups to discuss experiences on African countries on Voluntary National Review (VNR) processes and findings and exploring strategies to make VNRs reflective of the realities on the ground. The day ended with practical group thematic discussions on involvement and representation in the HLPF on SDG 16.

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