CLA News / Report on Access To Justice


The world faces a global justice gap and the poor and vulnerable are the most affected. The Justice for All Report of the Task Force on Justice reveals that around 5.1 billion people today—two-thirds of the world’s population—lack meaningful access to justice. Lack of access to justice traps people in vicious cycles of poverty, inequality and marginalization. The burden of this justice gap falls disproportionally on the most vulnerable, including women, chil- dren, minorities and people with disabilities. Lack of access to jus- tice also increases the risk of conflict and violence within a society.

Policymakers are increasingly looking for ways to address the justice gap. Faced with challenging budgetary environments, governments are under increased pressure to show the most cost- efficient allocation of government funding. In a world where data increasingly informs policy making, evidence-based policy propos- als that demonstrate the benefits of investments in legal aid pro- grams are useful and persuasive. In this spirit, policymakers and policy influencers have turned to cost benefit analysis as a tool to better evaluate the economic impact of legal aid services and make informed decisions on how to address the justice gap and allocate funding most efficiently and effectively.

Cost benefit analyses from around the world suggest that the benefits of legal aid and related services significantly outweigh their costs. This report surveys around 50 cost and benefit studies of past and proposed legal aid programs covering civil and com- mon law jurisdictions in developed and developing countries, large and small jurisdictions, and common and civil law systems. Cost benefit analysis offers a quantitative and quantitative data-based evaluation of the net economic benefits of a legal aid program. As in other sectors, not all costs and benefits can be quantified, but a good cost benefit analysis will quantify what it can and note what it cannot. Some cost benefits analyses evaluate the economic impact of fully-fledged access to justice programs. Others focus on the impact of particular legal aid or related services. Overwhelmingly, these studies suggest that the benefits of legal aid outweigh the costs: for the individual involved, the community, the justice sector, as well as the economy and the society.

This report examines the findings of the various cost benefit analyses and provides guidance on how to conduct one’s own cost benefit analysis of a legal aid program.

The report is the outcome of a joint project between the World Bank and the International Bar Association (IBA) Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee. To read the full report, please click here.