This panel focuses on issues of rule of law and access to justice, and investigates how people navigate justice systems, especially in transition periods characterized by weak institutions. The panel presents diverse micro-level studies on access to formal and/or informal justice in fragile states.
Access to justice is a daunting challenge in so-called "fragile" states. It has become central in development policy with the new Sustainable Development Goals that comprise the objective of "promoting the rule of law and ensuring access to justice for all" (Goal 16, Target 16.3). The improvement of access to justice raises numerous questions, and among others: how effective are rights-based programs in promoting the rule of law, especially for the most marginalized groups? How can trust between the population and justice institutions be (re)built in post-conflict contexts? How 'political' is access to justice in these contexts? How do the role of traditional institutions evolve? The question of access to justice has received a growing attention in development studies, where researchers coming from economics, law, political science and anthropology have started exploring the issue. A promising body of research is growing in importance and presents somewhat mixed evidence on the impact of projects aiming to improve access to justice. The panel seeks to discuss questions that are critical in order to extend this research field and produce rigorous evidence: what are the outcomes of access to justice programs and policies? Can we measure them, and if so, how? How can we adapt and integrate research methods coming from different field as development economics, political science, and legal analysis? The panel provides a space to discuss a growing literature and discuss the challenges and possible future trends of one of the newest areas of interest in interdisciplinary development studies.