Access to justice programmes should be participatory and should draw on a network approach when feasible. Ensuring participation and developing effective networks can be challenging, but these strategies can significantly enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of programs.
The meaningful participation of those affected by a problem is considered a fundamental right in itself. Participation helps increase accountability, brings the knowledge of those experiencing the problem into the process, and can help to address power imbalances.
A network approach to access to justice brings partners together around a common goal. Using networks to advocate for change allows groups to maximize resources, avoid duplication of efforts, and draw on the social capital (relationships, reciprocity, reputations) of multiple organizations.
Creating meaningful participation in programmes
Meaningful participation is generally understood to mean that the participants have a degree of real decision-making and control in the process. A participation plan is an important part of the programme planning and design process. Organizations should consider the following when developing a participation plan (Asia-Pacific Rights and Justice Initiative, 2003; UNDP, 2005):
Detailed information about participatory data collection methods is available in Programming Essentials, by scrolling down through the Baseline Assessments section.
Additional resources on participation:
Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists (PATH/WHO, 2005). Information on using participatory qualitative data collection methods appears at pages 138-152. Available in English.
Gender-based Violence Legal Aid: A Participatory Toolkit (American Refugee Committee, 2005). Available in English.
Partnerships and networks are powerful tools
Developing networks can be a very powerful tool, but the partnership or networking process must be carefully managed and monitored to ensure success (Varga, 2006; U.S. Agency for International Development, 2007).
Networks have several advantages:
Key considerations in developing networks include:
Breakdown in communication or lack of clear expectations can undermine the effectiveness of networks and coalitions. Many find it useful to create documents that specify expectations for coalition members. The following are examples of documents coalitions have used to clarify expectations, communication, and roles:
More detailed information on developing a network or coalition is available in the Legislation: Advocacy section.