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Many people lack access to legal services and protections, in both poor and wealthy countries. The United Nations has estimated that approximately one billion people - a significant portion of the current global population of 7.7 billion - are legally “invisible” in the sense that they cannot prove who they are officially and retain related legal protections. This lack of access to legal information and institutional assistance puts the dignity, safety, and security of large numbers of people at risk. A lack of access to functioning legal infrastructure, for example, can have significant related impacts on access to healthcare and education - and can restrict individual economic development. This dynamic was recognized in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, established in 2015 to provide a roadmap for a more sustainable global economy by 2030 (goal 16, for example, includes a target of ensuring access to justice for all). Tangible international commitments to build the infrastructure necessary to enable security more broadly and meet these legal needs are therefore critical. Ensuring access to justice, legal advice, legal institutions, and forensic science is a global need. This challenge takes different forms in different places, but is critical in both poor and wealthy countries. In the US, for example, as many as 90% of the people who find themselves in court in some states go without adequate legal representation, due in part to the high costs of legal fees. Meanwhile the United Kingdom, which has historically provided comprehensive criminal legal aid based on the founding principle that all citizens should have equitable access to public services, has seen large cutbacks. Government spending in the UK on legal aid is reported to have been cut by more than £1 billion since 2012, the number of people receiving advice or assistance in social welfare matters has dropped by 90%, and the number of defendants appearing in court without legal advice or representation has increased significantly. Trust in the justice system is foundational for security and stability in any country. Ensuring access to legal advice and infrastructure that operates in a transparent and robust way remains a critical challenge for both ensuring that trust, and for achieving peaceful and inclusive societies. This requires not only the careful consideration of resources, but also reform of the current oversight of justice systems.

Access to Law and Justice

KEY TRENDS

Demands for Justice