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Highlights

A new analysis based on Afrobarometer’s most recent round of surveys in 36 African countries

Citizens report a number of serious barriers to access to justice, including long delays in court cases

Access to justice for all citizens is a cornerstone of democracy and an increasingly prominent goal on the global agenda. It’s highlighted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16 to “promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.” One way to assess progress is through the perceptions and experiences of ordinary citizens of the legal systems in their countries.

A new analysis based on Afrobarometer’s most recent round of surveys in 36 African countries paints a sobering picture: while some countries can boast significant success in providing access to justice, most still face substantial blockages that are both patently unfair and a breeding ground for discontent. (For a detailed analysis by country, see Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 39.)

On the positive side, most Africans (72%) see courts as legitimate, charged with making decisions that all citizens must abide by. But only a slim majority (53%) trust the courts even “somewhat,” and one in three (33%) believe that “most” or “all” judges and magistrates are corrupt.

Citizens report a number of serious barriers to access to justice, including long delays in court cases, high costs, corruption, the complexity of legal processes, lack of legal counsel, and concerns about court fairness.

What’s worse, access is most severely restricted for some of Africa’s most vulnerable citizens – the uneducated, rural residents, and especially people living in poverty.