World Justice Project launches global report on legal needs and access to civil justice

The World Justice Project (WJP), which works to advance the rule of law worldwide, has launched the first-ever effort to capture comparable data on legal needs and access to civil justice on a global scale, representing the voices of more than 100,000 people in 101 countries.

The report, ‘Global Insights on Access to Justice 2019: Findings from the World Justice Project General Population Poll in 101 Countries’, presents data on how ordinary people around the world navigate their everyday legal problems, highlighting the most common legal problems, respondents’ assessment of their legal capability, and sources of help. The study also highlights information on the status of people’s problems, the resolution process, and the impact of their justice problems on their life. 

Key findings from the study include:

  • Justice problems are ubiquitous and frequent. Approximately half (49%) of people surveyed experienced at least one legal problem in the last two years. While the prevalence and severity of problems varies by country, the most common problems relate to consumer issues, housing, and money and debt. These can include problems with a landlord over rent, repairs, or payments; problems with neighbours over noise or litter; becoming homeless; disputes over poor or incomplete professional services; problems with a utility bill or supply; insurance claims being denied; threats from debt collectors; extortion from a gang or other criminal organization; difficulty collecting money owed to you; and more.
  • Justice problems negatively impact people’s lives. 43% of those surveyed reported that their legal problem adversely impacted their lives. More than 1 in 4 people (29%) reported that they experienced physical or stress-related ill health as a result of their legal problem, and more than 1 in 5 people (23%) reported that they lost their job or had to relocate.
  • Most people do not turn to lawyers and courts. Less than a third (29%) of people who experience a legal problem sought any form of advice to help them better understand or resolve their problem, and those who did seek assistance preferred to turn to family members or friends. Even fewer (17%) took their problem to an authority or third party to mediate or adjudicate their problem, with most preferring to negotiate directly with the other party. 
  • People face a variety of obstacles to meeting their justice needs, beginning with their ability to recognise their problems as having a legal remedy. Indeed, fewer than 1 in 3 people (29%) understood their problem to be legal in nature as opposed to “bad luck” or a community matter. As mentioned above, less than a third of those surveyed obtained advice from a person or organisation that could help them better understand or resolve their problem, and 1 in 6 (16%) reported that it was difficult or nearly impossible to find the money required to resolve their problem. About the same proportion (17%) reported that their justice problem persists but they have given up any action to try to resolve it further, with another 39% reporting that their problem is still ongoing.

The data presented in the report are derived from the access to justice module of the World Justice Project’s General Population Poll (GPP), administered in 101 countries and jurisdictions in 2017 and 2018 using a representative sample of 1,000 respondents in each country. 

The data and methodology presented in the report are the culmination of an extensive two-year pilot and vetting process, and reflect the consultations of governments, multilaterals, local civil society organisations, and academics from 17 countries. While results vary by country, this study reveals that legal problems are ubiquitous, and most people do not turn to courts and lawyers to navigate these problems. The data also show that legal problems adversely impact people’s lives, with more than 4 in 10 people surveyed reporting experiencing a social, economic, or health-related hardship as a result of their problem. What’s more, this study illuminates the variety of barriers that people face to meeting their justice needs, including low levels legal capability, issues accessing appropriate sources of help, and the cost of the resolution process. The WJP estimates that these barriers result in 1.4 billion people being unable to meet their everyday civil and administrative justice needs globally. It intends that the globally comparable methodology and data presented in this report will provide a reliable, people-centered approach to understanding and monitoring the state of access to civil justice at the national and global levels.

Click here to download the report.

Click here to explore the interactive data.



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