The Limbs of the MJ4All Concept in Practice
The limbs of the Microjustice4All Concept are:
- The provision of standardized legal services,
- To marginalized target groups,
- With a view to their social, economic and political inclusion,
- While undertaking bottom-up institutional capacity-building, and building a bridge between the people and their government,
- Financed in a cost-efficient and sustainable way which can be scaled up.
The Microjustice4All Legal Empowerment Methodology is the mechanism for implementing these limbs in practice.
Marginalized Target Groups
As explained in the definition, the target group of MJ4All is marginalized people. The term ‘marginalized’ refers to two categories of people:
1) Victims of conflict and disaster
Victims of conflict and (natural or man-made) disaster are helped to access the rights, entitlements and benefits of the system and humanitarian aid. They are also helped to restore their pre-disaster legal situation (e.g. restoration of property and arranging civil paperwork).
2) People at the bottom of the social/income pyramid, who do not enjoy the entitlements, opportunities and rights of the system in their country and who lack legal protection. Within this group there are two subgroups:
(i) The very poorest, who possess nothing. The focus is on civil documentation that gives them an existence in the system and access to entitlements.
(ii) People who are trying to escape the poverty cycle by engaging in economic activities, starting to possess a piece of land and tools etc. It is difficult to escape from poverty if one does not arrange legal protection of one’s possessions and business.
Within these target groups, a new MJ4All Program has to decide which particular target groups it will cater for. This will depend on the context in which the new MJ4All Program is set up, and the outcome of the feasibility study. If an existing humanitarian or development organisation sets up a MJ4All Program, then it is likely to focus on its existing beneficiaries. For example, in 2015-2016, working in co-operation with the Peruvian Red Cross, the MJ4All Program in Peru focused on the victims of earthquake in Pisco and the flooding in Iquitos.
Legal services with a View to Social, Economic and Political Inclusion in Society
MJ4All focuses on non-litigious private and administrative legal matters. MJ4All offers practical, legal solutions which often takes the form of a legal document, such as correction of birth certificates, death certificates, contracts, ID, business registration, registration of social organizations, property transfer and land registration. In this way, people can protect themselves, their business and their belongings. In addition, it enables people and groups to access the benefits and entitlements in the system of their country (including access to education, healthcare, pension schemes and enfranchisement). These issues are even more important in the aftermath of a humanitarian crisis, because all the victims need access to aid schemes and protection of their person and their belongings. MJ4All’s work is comparable to the work of solicitors in the English legal system, except that the MJ4All Methodology focuses on the basic rights of those at the bottom of the pyramid and victims of humanitarian crises.
Bottom-up Legal Capacity Building with a focus on Evidence-Based Lobbying
Microjustice4All country organizations do not only provide standardized legal services to people who lack access to rights, but also work with government institutions to propose modifications in legal and administrative practices to make them more accessible. MJ4All takes a co-operative approach to lobbying, assisting the government with improving the legal system on a technical level. Our lobbying is evidence-based and situation-driven; we collect information about the legal obstacles which people face in the Complaints Registration System and this forms the foundation of our lobbying activities.
Lobbying usually takes the form of technical legal reports, which explain the obstacles and provide recommendations for improving the institutional practices. These reports are shared with the relevant government institutions. Exceptionally, we exert pressure on governmental institutions to promote structural change, if this is considered the most efficient option.
The Complaints Registration System
Microjustice4All has developed a Complaint Registration System (CRS) in which complaints about the legal and administrative system and obstacles to accessing the system can be recorded. The information in the CRS provides the foundation for lobbying activities.
Legal Capacity Building and Lobbying During and After Humanitarian Crises
During and after humanitarian crises, MJ4All may provide advice on developing provisional administrative and legal measures to deal with the crisis situation, prevent conflict and rehabilitate the victims.
The Transparency and Accountability Tool
The complaint procedure is essential in the aftermath of a humanitarian disaster. Following a humanitarian disaster, there is a lot of material aid available and at the same time, there is often chaos due to the malfunctioning of the ordinary administrative and legal procedures. Therefore, it is important to have a mechanism in place so there is someone that people can complain to; the complaints need to be followed-up with evidence-based lobbying activities.
Microjustice4All Funding Model
The Microjustice4All Programs and Country Organizations have a mixed funding model:
- External funding from donors (usually from the public sector but there might also be private funding) for the start-up phase and thereafter for the permanent, non-variable costs of the activities with a public function (mainly for legal education, awareness-raising and lobbying). External funding is also necessary in humanitarian crises in order to facilitate the emergency response and the rehabilitation of victims. In addition, funding from donors is necessary to provide the most basic legal solutions (e.g. legally correct civil documentation) for the very poorest at the BoP.
- Charging the clients for service-delivery: in this way, Microjustice4All Programs can structurally develop a nationwide distribution network within a country without needing permanently large funds from the donors. Furthermore, the affordable Microjustice4All legal services encourage the poor to be self-reliant.
The following factors enable financial sustainability within a few years:
- Low operational costs (by standardization of services leading to economies of scale and high efficiency, and often working with undergraduate law students, who are primarily seeking to gain experience rather than income),
- Large volume (due to the high demand and wide distribution network),
- Payment of affordable fees by the clients,
- Using pre-existing infrastructures of partners, especially for distribution.
Therefore, Microjustice4All is not a typical donor-dependent project. However, the public function of Microjustice4All of public education and legal capacity building requires external funding in line with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and the “Responsibility to Protect" principle to prevent conflict and build peaceful, democratic societies. The funding scheme of an ideal Microjustice4All Program or Country Organization would be as follows:
In the development phase of the organization, external funding will be needed for all costs. This includes the costs of starting up the organization and developing the products. This can be seen as seed money. During the next three phases, fewer external funds are needed as clients start to pay for their products and services. In the last and ideal stage, external funds are only used for public functions and further development of the Microjustice4All methodology. The activities related to service provision to clients should be fully funded by the clients.
The Microjustice4All Methodology has been set up to balance the public and private financing models to make it sustainable. Finding the right balance between donor-independence and affordability for clients is a continuous process. In summary, Microjustice4All Programs need to be financed sustainably and ethically.