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In September 2015, the UN launched a universal and transformative post-2015 millennium goals agenda for sustainable development, underpinned by rights, with people and the planet at the center. The outcome of the project was the seventeen Global Goals for Sustainable Development (GGs), arranged according to the following six themes:
- Dignity: to end poverty and to fight inequalities;
- People: to ensure healthy lives, knowledge and the inclusion of women and children;
- Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive and transformative economy;
- Planet: to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children;
- Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies and strong institutions;
- Partnership: to catalyze global solidarity for sustainable development.
GG 16 for Sustainable Development is:
To promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
This is similar to the objective of Microjustice4All. Implementation of the Microjustice4All Methodology across the world will help change GG 16 from an aspiration into a reality. In light of this, Microjustice4All is preparing a Legal Inclusion Index within the context of GG 16.
GG16 logically links to GG 17:
To strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, for which multi-stakeholder partnerships are promoted to be set up around each of the GGs.
MJ4All offers a method for a rights-based approach, enabling sustainable development as described in the GGs. Peaceful and inclusive societies can only be achieved if excluded populations are identified and provided with the legal documentation necessary to make them part of society and give them legal protection. MJ4All also helps to make institutions more inclusive through evidence-based lobbying and assisting in legal capacity building.
MJ4All focuses on GG 16 but is relevant to any of the GGs since GG 16 is itself a cross-cutting theme. Inclusion of people into peaceful societies, access to justice and transparent, accessible institutions are vital for any form of development.
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The MJ4All Methodology provides a structural way to implement the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The doctrine of R2P states that if a government is unwilling or unable to protect its population, the international community has a moral obligation to protect the marginalized groups. The doctrine of R2P divides into three phases: (1) prevention of conflict, (2) intervention during a conflict and (3) rebuilding after a conflict. Despite abuse of R2P to justify military interventions, the founders of the doctrine of R2P emphasize in their report that military intervention should only take place in exceptional circumstances, and the main focus should be on the prevention and the rebuilding phase and the transition from post-war to normalization. MJ4All works on legal empowerment and inclusion of marginalized groups in the countries of operation, which is fundamental in the prevention and rehabilitation phases.
The Microjustice4All legal issues are an essential part of preventing violent conflict. Conflicts mostly occur where a part of the population is not integrated into society, do not have access to education, healthcare, public services and their land is unprotected. People can only be protected from harm if they are included within society and inclusion in society is dependent on having the necessary legal documentation in order. By evaluating the legal needs of the population, Microjustice4All provides a structural method for identifying which groups are excluded from society, so that these groups can be brought within society and protected. The Legal Inclusion Index, that MJ4All is developing, will be instrumental for this. Systematic identification of excluded groups enables systematic development co-operation. The acceptance of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect means that it is not optional for the international community to intervene when there are excluded groups but that there is a moral obligation. Microjustice4All offers a structural tool for fulfilling this obligation.
As well as preventing conflict, Microjustice4All legal services play an important role in post-crisis rehabilitation and the transition from post-war to normalization. After a violent conflict, many refugees and internally displaced persons face difficulties with obtaining civil documentation, the restoration of property and land, restoration of contractual relations, access to pension rights and problems with their bank. A prominent example was the situation after the war in the Former Yugoslavia.
Unless war victims and displaced populations are legally rehabilitated, legal insecurity can lead to renewed conflict. This vicious circle can be broken by structural implementation of the Microjustice4All Methodology.
The Market Context of Microjustice4All: Justice for those at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP)
In the last decades, there has been a movement which recognizes that there is a big market at the bottom of the social pyramid. This has led to movements for service provision to the poor, including Inclusive Finance and Microjustice. Inclusive finance entails providing financial services to the poor, while Microjustice entails providing legal services for the poor, in a sustainable, donor-independent way. The bottom line of this movement is that products for the poor are not donor-dependent but become sustainable through income from the client group.
In the market context, the Microjustice4All Legal Unit can be seen as a product development and implementation unit, the Microjustice4All Social Unit can be seen as a marketing and distribution unit and legal education and awareness-raising can be seen as a form of marketing. In addition, the MJ4All Methodology is based on the following market-inspired concepts, such as economies of scale, cost-efficiency and clients (rather than beneficiaries).
MJ4All as a BoP Product
The Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) refers to the people in the lowest economic sector of society. According to Paul Collier, approximately one billion people across the globe are at the BoP. Most businesses have traditionally ignored people at the BoP, as they were perceived to be too poor to be viable consumers. However, in order to survive, they still need certain basic products. This opens up a market with one billion customers, albeit a market for very low priced products. Penetrating the BoP market requires an innovative, and yet simple, approach, based on the following concepts:
- Be ready to collaborate with non-traditional partners
- Include local partners that can actively contribute to identify the needs of the potential consumers.
- Must enable local partners to build the business based on their own capacities.
The philosophy behind the BoP theory is that innovative businesses can be created to reduce poverty and support society and the environment. While this can be achieved by creating employment opportunities for the poor, they can also be considered as partners and as a valuable resource for innovative technology. It must be recognized, however, that these are long processes which do not offer immediate results.
Microjustice4All aims to reach those at the BoP and the MJ4All Methodology follows the reasoning of the BoP theory to bring justice to people with limited resources. This enables marginalized people to fully enjoy their rights.
Access to rights can only become a BoP product if the target group has an interest in accessing their rights. Traditionally, these people have been excluded from the system and, therefore, there is no culture of accessing rights. Those at the BoP perceive access to their rights as impossible or unnecessary. In order to change the culture of exclusion, the rights need to be connected to a specific benefit through an effective awareness-raising campaign.
The principles of the BoP theory are reflected throughout the MJ4All Methodology. For example:
- Affordable prices: since those at the BoP have very limited resources, Microjustice4All products and services must be affordable.
- Joint development of Microjustice4All Products: one of the principles of the BoP theory is that the services and products must be created and developed within the specific community as they are in the best position to identify their needs. Microjustice4All must aim to establish an open dialogue with members of the community to find adequate solutions to their needs and leave behind any pre-conceived ideas as to what people’s basic needs are.
- Innovation: Microjustice4All can reach the BoP, offering innovative products and services, tailored to the needs of people. This requires a deep understanding of the needs of the target group.
- Investment in education: providing products and services for the BoP market requires investment in educating people about the benefits of these. Most people at the BoP have no legal education and are unaware of the benefits of legal protection.
Whereas Microfinance offers people the means to getting access to a number of development issues, Microjustice is the precondition for obtaining such access.
Microjustice4All: A Cross-Cutting Approach
GG 16 is a cross-cutting goal in the sense that it is a precondition for the achievement of the other GGs. Similarly, the MJ4All Methodology is a cross-cutting approach to implementing Microjustice and GG 16 and MJ4All legal services are a precondition for further development and have great impact on a wide range issues:
- Without social, economic and political inclusion in society and without legal protection, it is not possible to achieve peaceful and democratic societies.
- Without correct property registration, business registration, recognition of legal personality of associations and written contracts, it is not possible to have a stable economy.
- Without legal protection and rehabilitation, it is not possible to prevent conflict nor to achieve sustainable development.
MJ4All Legal Services are just a very small part of any development or peacebuilding activities, but if that small part is not taken care of, the core activity will never succeed in obtaining its objectives in the long term. The costs of MJ4All Legal Services are small in relation to their impact and the increased sustainability of the development and peacebuilding activities. That is why MJ4All is helping bigger humanitarian and development organizations and social enterprises to integrate MJ4All Programs within their activities.
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MJ is justice on a micro-level, taking the person and their vulnerability as the point of departure. MJ entails providing vulnerable people with legal protection and access to the entitlements of the country in which they live.
Since the mid-18th century, the philosophy of justice has developed with a focus on creating an enlightened citizen in the post-ancien regime democracy, which had to be developed afresh. This philosophy does not take into account the vulnerability of the person, who needs to be legally empowered in order to become a citizen. Furthermore, this philosophy of justice is theoretical, top-down, and dependent on the culture of the country. It has largely worked in the West, but has often been dysfunctional in other cultures.
Since the millennium, a more practical philosophy of justice has been developed. This philosophy takes into account the vulnerability of the person, and their need for protection and empowerment. MJ facilitates this transition from the vulnerable person to the legally empowered and protected citizen. Microjustice is a universal form of justice on a micro level in practice. It is not about judging the state but about arranging the technicalities so that people can be protected and connected to the society in which they live.
In 2012, the International Intelligence Council has identified the empowerment of the individual as a new trend . This is also reflected in Global Goal 16 that links peaceful, inclusive societies to access to justice and transparent institutions on all levels. Peaceful and inclusive societies, that provide access to justice have to include and protect all persons. The importance of legal empowerment of the poor has been recognized since 2005 when the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor was established. The doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect of 2001 emphasizes protection of non-included (marginalized) groups and vulnerable persons in order to prevent violent conflict and to rebuild war-torn societies. Protection of the vulnerable person is the point of departure.
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Microjustice4All aims to fulfil the basic legal needs of people who do not have access to the legal system in their country. The international community has recognized the importance of legal aid for the poorest people as a precondition for sustainable development. In 2005, the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor was established under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program. It was the first global initiative which examined the link between exclusion, poverty and the law. The findings of the Commission’s report in 2008 illustrate the importance of providing legal services to the poor, in particular, legal services relating to (1) identity papers, (2) land and house registration, (3) income generation and registration of legal personality, including business registration and (4) worker’s rights. Through its structural and sustainable method, Microjustice4All ensures people can obtain these legal documents. It combines this with evidence-based lobbying at an institutional level.
The High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has identified inclusive development, ‘leaving no one behind’ and legal empowerment of the poor as key agenda points. This requires a rights-based approach where all can participate and have the same legal rights and opportunities. “Societies without a predictable legal framework are societies where people do not invest in their future, or the future of their country.” (Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, New York, 19 September 2013).
Despite the global support for Legal Empowerment of the Poor on paper, Microjustice4All is the one of the only initiatives to date that addresses the Legal Empowerment of the Poor structurally at the grassroots level. Legal development aid is often limited to ‘top-down’ capacity-building through judicial institutions. In contrast, Microjustice4All uses a ‘bottom-up’ approach to lobby for changes making the system more accessible. Free legal aid programs tend to focus mainly on mediation and court representation and do not have a sustainability model. Microjustice4All however aims to offer services in administrative and private-law issues that impact large numbers of people. Microjustice4All is also critical for victims of conflict and disaster, especially for displaced populations, legal rehabilitation and restoration of livelihoods.
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Microjustice4All (MJ4All) legal and administrative services in humanitarian crises
Legal rehabilitation, including helping victims and refugees to (re)obtain valid legal documentation, is a precondition for successful post-emergency relief and rehabilitation, as it allows people to access aid and loans, avoid statelessness, and restore their pre-disaster situation, which they need to rebuild their livelihoods.
In humanitarian crises vulnerable people become even more vulnerable, victims often lose their basic documents or need papers they never had to prove their identity, property etc., and the institutional infrastructures are often damaged (which makes access to the right paperwork even more complicated). Many vulnerable victims and refugees miss out on emergency aid or have difficulty obtaining refugee/IDP status, as they are not able to (re)obtain legal documents that humanitarian and government agencies request and/or fill out necessary forms.
Benefits of the MJ4All Methodology
The MJ4All Methodology makes it possible to provide fast, effective and practical legal services in humanitarian crises. We help victims to resolve their legal issues, obtain legal documents (e.g. documents relating to identity and property) and fill out forms which are necessary to access reconstruction loans, get refugee status, obtain aid relief and restore their livelihoods. The MJ4All Methodology and Toolkit can be used worldwide in post-emergency relief and rehabilitation efforts. By integrating legal services into the humanitarian aid efforts, the outcomes of these efforts become more structural and permanent.
Experience MJ4All in humanitarian relief and rehabilitation
The MJ4All Methodology is based on 20 years of practical experience working in and studying man-made and natural humanitarian crises. At the end of 1996, we started our work with a post-war legal rehabilitation program in the Former Yugoslavia, where hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) had to arrange a great number of legal and administrative issues. Most of these issues had to be arranged in their former home towns, from which they were now separated by newly created borders. Working together with the Humanitarian Centre for Integration and Tolerance in Novi Sad, Serbia, MJ4All played an important role in developing practical cross-border legal solutions for these refugees. The key legal needs of these refugees were:
- Property and housing issues, particularly reclaiming private property, resolving issues of pre-war occupancy and tenancy rights, compensation for property damaged as a result of terrorist acts, and access to reconstruction aid and loans;
- Administrative or declaratory proceedings, necessary to access basic rights (including inheritance proceedings or extra-judicial proceedings);
- Contractual issues, such as issues related to force majeure, abuse of circumstance, duress, annulment of contracts, debt payment litigation, and employment relations litigation;
- War crime prosecution and implementation of the Amnesty Law.
In response to these needs, MJ4All established a network of lawyers, paralegals, and volunteers on both sides of the Croatia/Serbia border. The lawyers and paralegals on the Serbian side obtained certified powers of attorney on behalf of the refugees. Then, the MJ4All office at Vukovar (at the border between Serbia and Croatia) collected the necessary documents and sent them to paralegals in Croatia. The cross-border legal assistance resolved the stalemate which these refugees faced: they had to get their paperwork from the municipalities of origin, but they could not travel there unless they had the necessary paperwork!
Through this network, MJ4All was able to help refugees and IDPs access important legal documents such as birth certificates, citizenship certificates, and proof of property ownership. These documents were essential for people wishing to return to their home country and rebuild their lives there, and also for those wishing to resettle in new areas. Where refugees faced more complex legal challenges, MJ4All assisted them in taking their case to court and provided advocacy services. Furthermore, MJ4All lobbied the governments to remove key legal obstacles.
Building on this experience, MJ4All worked on IDP rehabilitation in Georgia/South Ossetia (1999), Sudan (Khartoum return to the South, 2005), Colombia (2005/6), Iraq (2003) and Pisco and Iquitos in Peru (as of 2009) and Kenya (as of 2016).
MJ4All Toolkit for Humanitarian Relief and Rehabilitation
MJ4All has prepared a humanitarian toolkit, with funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund. This has been developed on the basis of MJ4All’s experience with providing relief in the man-made disasters and the earthquakes and flooding during the pilot projects in Pisco and Iquitos in 2015/16.
MJ4All legal services are relevant for several stages of the relief and rehabilitation effort:
- Phase 1 Pre-emergency phase
- Inform the public about the importance of safeguarding legal documents (so they can access them after the emergency);
- Form partnerships with relevant stakeholders working in the humanitarian aid sector (to be able to co-ordinate and communicate effectively before, during and after the emergency);
- Especially in disaster prone locations, develop a MJ4All mechanism and the MJ4All products (standardized legal services), and lobby institutions, encouraging them to set up special procedures to deal with the emergency;
- Prepare emergency legal aid plans.
- Phase 2 Post-emergency Response and Relief
- Legal needs and context mapping: mapping the victims, who they are, where they came from and what their needs are.
- Partnerships with stakeholders, e.g. government institutions.
- Legal aid, including: aid to obtain civil documents (which are necessary to access aid programs), fit-for-purpose land and housing surveys (community-based registrations of property and damage) and assistance with filling out forms;
- Awareness-raising and legal education;
- Transparency and Accountability: Collecting complaints about legal obstacles and corruption and evidence-based lobbying on the basis of these complaints.
- Phase 3 Legal Rehabilitation
- (Fit-for-purpose) surveys and registrations for land and housing;
- Access to reconstruction loans;
- Obtaining recognition of legal personality (neighbourhoods, associations), which is necessary to access public services, loans etc.;
- Access to public services;
- Civil documentation.
MJ4All complements existing humanitarian aid efforts
MJ4All provides legal services which are needed to access humanitarian aid and to ensure sustainable rehabilitation. MJ4All Programs are implemented within the exiting humanitarian relief infrastructure and in close co-operation with aid agencies. The objective is to complement existing humanitarian aid efforts and contribute to their effectiveness and sustainability.