Access to justice for persons living in poverty: a human rights approach

Author: Kate Donald, Magdalena SepĂșlveda
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People living in poverty face numerous daunting barriers to access to justice, denying them the chance to challenge crimes, abuses or human rights violations committed against them. This situation exacerbates their poverty and social exclusion, in a vicious circle of impunity, powerlessness and injustice. Empowering people living in poverty to claim their rights is therefore fundamental to fighting poverty and tackling growing global and national inequalities. Moreover, access to justice is a fundamental human right in itself and also essential for the protection and promotion of all other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

This publication analyses the obstacles to access to justice for the poor, including financial costs, socio-economic subordination, the location of courts and police stations, lack of information, and the unnecessary complexity and formal requirements of judicial processes. It emphasizes that persons living in poverty suffer most when justice mechanisms are corrupt, ineffective or out of reach, often creating a threat to their livelihoods. The authors conclude that improving access to justice for persons living in poverty depends not only on improving the legal tools, information and services available to them, but also requires a holistic approach based on human rights principles and taking into account the structural, social and economic factors that prevent the poor from seeking and obtaining justice on equal terms.


Social Protection and Human Rights