As a first step, we asked thought leaders in the countries where we work about their views on the impact of Covid-19 on the delivery of justice. Two-hundred and seventy one leaders from more than 20 countries engaged in this dialogue via an online questionnaire.
The respondents have significant experience. Sixty-eight percent have more than 10 years of professional experience and 18% more than 6 years. Twenty-six percent are lawyers, 19% work for NGOs, 13% are judges or prosecutors, 9% are academics and 8% are justice innovators.
The interactive charts below allow you to explore the detailed views of these leaders, country by country.
Justice needs research carried out before the pandemic shows that the five most prevalent categories of justice problems are land, family, crime, employment and neighbour disputes.
The thought leaders expect a surge in disputes that are directly related to the global economic depression, including business problems, debt, and employment disputes. They also anticipate that the economic crisis and the public health measures will put intense pressure on families and communities, leading to a significant increase in family disputes and domestic violence. Other disputes, including (access to) welfare, health bills and insurance, tax, and housing issues are also expected to increase worldwide.
Regarding the effect of the pandemic on crime, variation across regions is very significant.
A small increase or even a slight decrease is expected in Europe and other high and middle income nations.
A sharp increase in crime is expected in low and lower-middle income countries (particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa).
Individual thought leaders also pointed to:
Bankruptcies, debt disputes, disputes with employees and disputes with suppliers are expected.
There is already a body of knowledge about the distribution of legal problems. From the HiiL dataset of justice needs from about 20 countries we know that of the most serious legal problems:
We also know that around 53% of the 5.5 billion adult people in this world report one or more legal problems every 4 years.
10% increase per 1 million
25% increase per 1 million
Covid-19 related problems will cause loss of jobs and income; in countries with a large informal job market or weak employment protection legislation, this has already happened.
Closures of businesses, stress-related illness, and damage to family relationships are already impacting people’s lives as well.
In the MENA region and in Sub-Saharan Africa more than 60% of respondents expect violence as a consequence of the new wave of justice problems.
A number of thought leaders reacted emotionally or expressed strong concern:
When we asked about interventions in detail, we see considerable doubt among justice leaders across regions and income levels about the need for punitive interventions at this time.
More constructive and informal interventions such as respecting, shaping solutions, and restoring were seen as more important for addressing people’s present problems. Two thirds of those surveyed also placed a high value on monitoring outcomes (“improving”). This suggests that in a time of significant uncertainty and change, ensuring the quality and sustainability of interventions that prevent and resolve is a top priority for many leaders in the justice sector.
In a recent report, the Task Force on Justice recommended a set of priorities for justice leaders to respond to Covid-19 related challenges.
We asked thought leaders to choose from these priorities.
The resulting ranking varies by region, income level and country but we see that the key elements are:
Thought leaders worldwide identify the need to increase innovation and smart working, as the most important strategy to deal with challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in the justice sector.
In lower income countries, where law and order institutions are assumed to be weaker, the justice leaders identify the need to protect people from violence as an equally important priority.
In Latin America, where income inequality is among the highest in the world, justice leaders identify the need to enforce emergency measures fairly, as the top priority.
In Europe, where safety concerns are lower than in other regions, and justice services are more equally accessible across segments of the population, the needs to protect the justice workforce, and to prepare for future disease containment phases, are signaled as relatively more important than in other parts of the world.
Other priorities mentioned include:
Finally, we also asked whether the justice leaders in your country have the necessary skills, relationships and coordination processes to respond effectively to the Covid-19 crisis.
13% strongly disagrees that they do and a further 36% disagrees.
Almost a quarter of respondents remain undecided about the capacity of their leaders.
It may be that the COVID-19 crisis has not been going on long enough for experts to make an assessment of the performance and capacity of their justice leaders.
Based on these opinions of thought leaders, the justice gap is expected to increase.
The impact of justice problems will be considerable, with large scale violence being a substantial risk in a number of countries.
Courts, police and other justice services will have to adapt their services, focusing on interventions that are most likely to resolve or prevent an additional wave of justice problems.
Just rendering decisions and imposing sanctions is unlikely to work.
The situation asks for a richer and more accessible portfolio of interventions, delivered locally, online or in communities.
Developing innovative service delivery models is seen as the main way forward.
In light of the sheer size of the challenges ahead, it is not surprising that justice leaders are thought to benefit from new skills, relationships and coordination processes.