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Justice Innovation Labs for sustainable solutions Community Justice Clinics in Uganda

Community Justice Clinics in Uganda

Innovation lab journey

Building on the foundation of community justice providers in Uganda, HiiL convened a justice innovation lab in the country in 2021. The aim was to build an innovative and financially sustainable implementation plan to scale community justice across Uganda and connect it to the formal justice system. 

In the Lab, a group of 30 key stakeholders from the country’s justice system, in a series of four sessions from July to October 2021, codesigned a solution called the Community Justice Clinic. Representatives from the judiciary, Justice Law and Order Sector, Ministry of Local Government and local councillors in Uganda, IDLO, UN Women, Barefootlaw, Bataka Courts, LASPNET, Uganda Law Society, Social Finance NL, and community volunteers participated in the lab.

Overview of the justice landscape

A nationwide survey of justice problems in Uganda conducted by HiiL in 2020 shows that Ugandans face 12.7 million legal problems every year. Out of these 4.7 million are abandoned, 1.2 million remain ongoing and 2.13 million are considered to be resolved unfairly. To resolve their problems, less than 5% of Ugandans engage courts and less than 1% involve lawyers. The formal justice system remains inaccessible to the majority due to increasing backlog, physical distance, and a lack of trust. 

Community justice providers such as Local Council Courts, Bataka Courts and traditional leaders, on the other hand, are found in all parts of the country. They resolve the most common and severe justice problems of 8 out of 10 Ugandans, especially those of land and family. This is because community justice providers, by virtue of being embedded in their communities, understand the justice problems of people well and enjoy a high level of trust, as shown by HiiL’s 2016 Uganda Justice Needs and Satisfaction Survey.

Design of the solution

Considering the significance of community justice services in Uganda, the lab designed a Community Justice Clinic (CJC) to enhance the capacity of existing community justice providers and improve their resolution rates. The CJC focuses on strengthening the accessibility, legitimacy and ability to deliver fair outcomes of the community justice workers. It offers these providers a standardised way of working through evidence-based guidelines on resolving family, land and neighbour disputes. Below is a description of the key features of the community justice clinic:

Reflections of participants