Launch of Reports on Access to Justice and Informal Justice SystemsDec 12, 2017
A series of reports on “Access to Justice and Informal Justice Systems in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States” were launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Yangon last week.
The reports are based on research conducted between October 2015 and July 2016. They cast light on the formal and informal processes of justice in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, and why and how people use them to resolve their disputes and grievances. The reports allow justice sector stakeholders to access hard-to-obtain data that can better inform future justice sector development planning.
The research reveals that the most common legal disputes were concerned with the issues of debt, land, civil documentation and abuse of state authority, and most people sought access to justice locally through informal channels.
It further highlights that officials in the formal justice system were rarely involved in efforts to seek resolution of disputes at the local level. Perceptions that the formal justice system favored the wealthy and well-connected were prevalent among those who sought access to justice.
The reports provide recommendations to address the evident deficit of public trust in the formal justice system, and to ensure that the justice system at all levels functions in accordance with the rule of law and reflects shared values based on human rights.
During the launch, Peter Batchelor, UNDP Country Director said, “The reports will help the process of defining what people’s expectations are for fair and equitable justice services in Myanmar. As the Union Government is beginning to explore a ‘whole of government’ approach to improving the justice sector from the Union level down to the townships, knowing how people view the available services – whether through Township Administrators, religious leaders, or the formal justice system – is the first step to finding solutions.”
U Thein Zaw, the Law Officer for Yangon Region, noted the Union Attorney General’s Office was taking the lead in the government’s efforts to implement access to justice in Myanmar as “[a]ccess to justice was of wide interest to the people. At the moment, people have lost confidence [in the government…] but gradually it will gain the trust of the people.”
The launch event was attended by representatives of the Government of Myanmar (union, state and region levels), parliamentarians (union and state/region level) UN agencies, international organizations, members of the legal profession, universities, and civil society. In addition to a presentation on the main findings and methodology of the research, the launch event also featured a panel discussion on how the report could be used to develop regional justice sector reform strategies, and how the government could provide quality services to minority women.
The research for the reports was conducted in 16 townships in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States and two internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Kachin. International consultants led the fieldwork and carried out interviews with state officials while local think tank, Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation carried out research at the ward and village levels.
Funding for the production of these reports was provided by the Governments of Australia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.