ACCESS TO JUSTICE; WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR CITIZENS?
Every man, woman and child deserves their human rights. Most African countries support formal human rights, but for a number of reasons, these rights are not always awarded to the people. One main reason can be that there is no access to justice. Access to justice is extremely important because if laws aren’t implemented, people won’t have their rights. If justice isn’t accessible there will be injustice. This has a negative impact on individuals and wider effects on society as a whole.
Access to justice is important for the development of a country’s economy. If more people can access their right to education, then more people will have better paid jobs. This benefits a person’s family, but could also benefit a wider community if that person goes on to start a business and provide jobs for other people. This increases the employment and wealth of that community. Another economic advantage to access to justice is that more foreign businesses will work with African businesses. This is because they know their rights will be respected and implemented. For example, Mauritius has had an economic growth of 5.4% each year, compared with the African average of 1% each year. One of the reasons why other countries want to trade with Mauritius is that they know the government works hard to award the legal rights it creates. This shows foreign businesses that their own rights will be respected. Mauritius was ranked firsts among Sub-Saharan African nations for its government’s respect for the rule of law.
There are also political advantages that come from access to justice. If people can’t use their legal rights, they can’t hold their government to account. This makes it easier for governments to disrespect the rights of citizens and may even allow corruption. In Papa New Guinea efforts were made to increase access to justice through raising awareness of rights. These activities aimed to increase the accountability of local authorities and service providers. They involved village courts and village leaders. These activities helped the local people better understand their rights and how to claim them. As a result women have been accepted as village court officials and play an active role in monitoring decisions.
POVERTY AND SOCIAL MOBILITY
It is often poorer people that are denied access to justice the most. This is because they can’t afford the cost of the legal process. If these people can’t access justice, they have no way to make sure they are awarded their rights. This means it will be very difficult to better their positions. If people in poverty can’t access their rights to education, employment and fair treatment they will find it harder to improve their lives and will remain in poverty. In Botswana there is movement between social classes and the possibility of getting out of poverty. Alongside this, Botswana is also improving access to justice by changing the law and using financial help from legal aid organisations.
As you can see, there are a number of advantages for both individual people, and countries as a whole, if people are awarded their legal rights and have access the justice.