Non-State Justice System Programming – A Practitioner’s Guide (2019)


Created 06/26/2019

How-to, Tools and Templates


Non-state justice system

This guide is intended to assist USAID Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG) Officers and other practitioners in designing, implementing, and monitoring rule of law programs that include support for community-level non-state justice systems (NSJSs).

It aims to provide a digest of techniques used by donors in supporting such non-state justice systems and offers guidance on best practices and lessons learned, including a sample scope of work (SOW) that may be used as a starting point for future support programs. The observations and conclusions herein may also be useful for programmatic support to other types of NSJSs.

In addition, USAID emphasizes that this guide exists within an ecosystem of primers, assessment methodologies, and programmatic documentation developed and maintained by the Democracy, Rights, and Governance Center of Excellence. It is intended to be used in concert with other USAID technical leadership tools.

NSJSs vary widely. A 2010 United Nations-commissioned study by the Danish Institute for Human Rights noted five distinct NSJS types, including:
● Traditional leaders
● Religious leaders
● Local administrators with an adjudicative or mediation function
● Customary or community courts where the adjudicator is not a lawyer
● Community mediators
In addition, the study noted that “other actors, including paralegals, trade organizations or community groups may often resolve disputes on a more ad hoc basis” in efforts that might be described as legal services.

This guide is not intended to cover the broad array of NSJSs; rather, it focuses on those mechanisms with deep community roots employing conciliatory dispute resolution practices, what is often referred to as the informal justice sector.2 In general, this guide focuses on those NSJSs comprised of community level institutions or processes exercising some form of nonstate authority to provide safety, security, and access to justice. This authority may be used to resolve a dispute, exact punishment for a crime, or administer regulatory authority.

Click here to read the full guide online.

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