Unlocking Legal Rights through MicroJustice: A Closer Look at the Barometer Method

The Hague-based Dutch Foundation Microjustice4All, known as Microjustice, was established in 1996 with a mission to champion the Legal Protection of marginalized individuals and disaster victims. With over 25 years of hands-on experience in providing legal aid, Microjustice has evolved to develop the Global Legal Rights Protection Barometer and country-specific digital Legal Aid Platforms. In its pursuit to advocate for Legal Rights Protection for All, Microjustice has introduced the Legal Rights Protection Barometer, often referred to as the Barometer. Unlike conventional top-down analyses of judicial system effectiveness, the Barometer takes a user-centric approach, evaluating how easy or challenging it is for individuals to address their legal needs. The fundamental question is centered on what actions individuals can effectively take to secure legal protection for all their requirements and whether effective remedies are available in case of non-compliance. This comprehensive research examines three distinct sets of legal rights protection indicators within each country: 1) people’s capacity, 2) the effectiveness of state organization, and 3) the accessibility and affordability of legal aid.

Understanding Legal Rights Protection

Before delving into MicroJustice’s role, let’s first establish what we mean by “Legal Rights Protection.” It’s the state in which individuals have their basic legal needs satisfied through adequate registrations, contracts, or any other means that demonstrate their ‘status.’ This enables them to enforce their rights through effective access to the court system or other remedies while having access to the rights, benefits, and entitlements of the society they live in.

In theory, people have numerous rights and obligations based on their country’s legal framework, but in practice, many cannot fully enjoy these rights and entitlements. This is where the importance of legal rights protection becomes evident. People need assistance in arranging their legal rights protection to become citizens and break free from the cycle of poverty and informality, where they struggle to protect their belongings, income, and entitlements.

The essential legal needs that MicroJustice addresses are focused on practical, everyday life issues. These needs are the foundation for legal protection and are crucial for individuals to participate fully in society. MicroJustice’s legal services primarily concentrate on non-litigious private and administrative legal matters, including civil documents, property and housing matters, income-generating activities, family law, and inheritance.

Basic Legal Needs of People

Here’s a closer look at the main categories of legal issues that anyone, regardless of their location, needs to have addressed to ensure their basic legal needs are met:

Civil Documents: These include birth certificates and other identity-related documents, enabling access to education, healthcare, social benefits, microfinance, and voting.

Property and Housing: This category covers property registration, documents related to property transfer and rental issues, providing legal protection and access to loans and rental contracts.

Income-Generating Activities: It involves setting up and running businesses, co-operatives, and other legal entities, as well as handling contracts and basic labor issues.

Family Law and Inheritance: Documents and issues related to family law and inheritance matters are crucial for legal inclusion.

Geographic Context: This category accounts for specific legal issues related to geographic context, such as post-war situations, natural disasters, refugee crises, and environmental issues.

Legal Rights Protection Indicators

MicroJustice has developed the Legal Rights Protection Barometer in the domain of Civil Justice, not including criminal justice. This research method aims to assess the factors that determine whether individuals are legally protected. It centers on the relationship between individuals and the state institutions in their respective countries and their ability to access quality, affordable legal assistance.

The three key factors examined in this research method are:

a. The Ability of People: This includes aspects such as education level, access to the internet, and financial capacity.

b. The Effectiveness of State Procedures: This factor evaluates how well state institutions have organized procedures for obtaining legal rights protection and the efficiency of enforcement mechanisms.

c. Accessibility, Affordability, and Quality of Legal Assistance: The third factor examines the availability and quality of legal assistance services.

These three factors are crucial to assess the extent to which people are legally protected. The interrelation between these factors determines whether individuals, especially those who are disadvantaged or at risk, are legally included or excluded. If a person is impoverished, uneducated, and part of a vulnerable group, their legal inclusion depends on the accessibility of state services, institutions, the judiciary, and the affordability of legal assistance.

The MicroJustice Barometer Method plays a pivotal role in promoting legal rights protection and inclusion. By focusing on the basic legal needs of individuals, it helps bridge the gap between theoretical legal rights and their practical realization. Through a comprehensive assessment of people’s ability, state procedures, and legal assistance, MicroJustice seeks to make the legal system more accessible and inclusive for everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable.

MicroJustice’s dedication to ensuring the realisation of basic legal needs is a testament to its commitment to creating a world where legal rights are not just words on paper but a tangible reality for all. Through their efforts, they pave the way for a more just and inclusive society.

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