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Hybrid Courts in East Asia & Pacific: Does the international community have a role to play?

Peter Chapman's picture

In my previous entry, I asked what role the World Bank and other donors might be able to play in exploring whether hybrid courts might help enhance access to justice. I believe there are three key areas where we in the international community might be able to support country discussions of whether and how to incorporate community justice systems through hybrid courts.

Context.  From the outset, we need to do a better job of viewing hybrid courts (and all justice institutions) in context.  It is critical to understand the justice landscape before one engages with it.  Local contexts are immensely more complex than simple state vs. non-state dichotomies—where one system is inherently more equitable than another. 

Undertaking empirical work to better understand the local context is essential for developing interventions which actually respond to the injustices faced by marginalized groups or individuals as opposed to mimicking ‘successful’ institutional forms.  A better understanding of the context is critical for understanding if, and how, we can or should support hybrid courts.

Measurement. Dispute resolution processes differ across localities and empirical evidence at the local level is lacking.  Improving outcomes for users in practice is critical and we can play a role in establishing systems to measure actual local outcomes (for example, like the Harvard Kennedy School’s program on indicators).  Such measurement will be essential in refining approaches to justice reform and documenting what works and what doesn’t in specific contexts.

Dialogue. Finally, there is a need to foster discussion between states that are facing similar challenges—like the South-South Experience Exchange the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor program recently held in Solomon Islands.  From Melanesia, to West Africa, to South Asia, countries are engaging in similar—but often disconnected—discussions on hybrid courts. Building the evidence base and linking discussions may help support more effective and legitimate justice systems, a critical component for equitable development.

These efforts alone surely won’t deliver enhanced access to justice for marginalized groups.  However, they might be a start in ensuring that justice reform initiatives are better able to identify and support substantive justice outcomes for poor and marginalized groups.

Are there any other areas I should’ve considered and why? Let me know.

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