George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations, has said the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) must include access to justice as a key component.
The founder of Soros Fund Management said a cause of poverty was the absence of justice for disadvantaged communities. “Without basic legal empowerment, the poor live an uncertain existence in fear of deprivation, displacement and dispossession,” he said on Sunday in Nusa Dua, Bali, ahead of the three-day High Level Panel meeting on post-2015 MDGs.
He called on governments to take concrete steps to provide access to justice. “Governments must implement concrete measures, or must enable civil society to do so, making sure the poor are fully aware of their rights under the law,” he said.
According to the foundation, there are approximately four billion people worldwide currently living in poverty and with no access to justice.
Soros is in Bali to join the initial discussion aimed at eliminating poverty and promoting development in the post-2015 MDGs agenda.
He also called for efforts to strengthen human rights and the rule of law.
Mas Achmad Santosa of the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) concurred with Soros, saying that “access to justice and legal empowerment service providers should be recognized in the post-2015 development goals”.
He later said that Indonesia had made some achievements in providing access to justice for all.
Mas Achmad said Indonesia had adopted legal empowerment and legal aid for the poor as indicated by the presence of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), which was established in 1970 by a prominent legal aid and human rights activist.
“From that historical perspective, legal aid has been used as a tool to improve human rights and to enable people to have access to legal rights, economic rights and cultural rights,” he said.
Mas Achmad said that the government had also gone further. “In 2009, the government issued a national strategy on access to justice with nationwide measures to improve the access to justice for all.”
The strategy aims to create a framework for policies and regulations specifically designed for the poor and the marginalized, to allow them to have access to justice as part of an effort to overcome poverty.
The strategy covers eight areas, including access to legal and judicial reform as well as access to legal aid, land and natural resources for women, children and poor and marginalized communities. The House of Representatives had also enacted the Legal Aid Law in 2011 that guaranteed access to justice, Mas Achmad added.
He said that under the law, the state was responsible for the budgeting and distribution of funds and the supervision, accreditation and enforcement of legal aid providers.
Soros however challenged Mas Achmad’s claim, saying: “It’s my understanding that it [the national strategy] is not yet adopted as a part of government policy.”
Irman Lanti, Tifa Foundation executive director, said it was indeed a challenge for Indonesia in the future to implement the national strategy.