Working Paper

Access to Justice and Legal Process: Making Legal Institutions Responsive to Poor People in LDCs

Published on 1 January 2003

This paper examines some of the principal factors that deny poor people access to justice and suggests a number of legal reform strategies. The legal system offers an arena in which people can hold political leaders and public officials to account, protect themselves from exploitation by those with more power, and resolve conflicts that are individual or collective.

Access to justice is therefore not only central to the realisation of constitutionally guaranteed rights, but also to the broader goals of development and poverty reduction. Although the legal system is composed of numerous institutions, this paper focuses in particular on the judiciary. It begins with a comment on how different forms of illegality or lawlessness contribute to the creation and reproduction of poverty.

After a review of the judiciary’s accountability functions, it proceeds to examine the institutional obstacles to legal accountability by the poor and the anti-poor bias of many legal institutions. The paper?s focus then turns to civil society and examines a number of economic and social factors that keep the poor from obtaining access to judicial systems.

The next section explores how democratisation and the incorporation of human rights concepts into national law have (or have not) enhanced access to justice. The conclusion suggests a number of policy reforms and strategies that state and civil society groups can deploy to increase the responsiveness of judicial systems to the poor.

Publication details

published by
Anderson, M.R.
IDS Working Paper, issue 178
1 85654 481 X


About this publication

Related content