Access to Justice

Heartland Alliance International (HAI) ensures access to justice for vulnerable and marginalized people, empowering them to exercise and enforce their rights, challenge discrimination, hold governments accountable, and obtain remedies through formal, informal, and alternative dispute mechanisms, in accordance with human rights principles and standards. Increasing access to justice raises the voices of those who would be otherwise silenced and helps them to overcome the legal, institutional, cultural, economic, informational, physical, and psychological barriers that limit their ability to vanquish poverty and participate fully and equally in society.


The Need

Barriers to access to justice are numerous and formidable. Gaps in legal frameworks, criminalization or non-recognition of certain groups, and laws that contradict human rights standards prohibit many people from accessing justice mechanisms in their countries. Additionally, institutional barriers, such as lack of judicial independence, corruption, inadequate capacity, weak knowledge of human rights norms, and lack of external review mechanisms prevent governments from fulfilling citizens’ rights. Finally, social and cultural barriers, including discriminatory social and cultural norms, negative societal attitudes towards disadvantaged/vulnerable groups, stigma/shame, and insensitivity/lack of awareness to particular needs result in large swathes of populations feeling that justice is beyond their reach.

HAI supports survivors of human rights violations as well as with other vulnerable and marginalized groups including women, children, LGBTI people, indigenous people, mentally ill, migrants, refugees, internally displaced people, stateless people, sex workers, and others who have been excluded from the protections and opportunities enjoyed by majority and high-income groups in society.


HAI’s approach explicitly recognizes that trauma, experienced at either the individual or collective level, often heightens and intensifies the psychological barriers that prevent people from obtaining justice. Many people who endured great suffering cannot contemplate seeking justice until they begin healing; at the same time, there cannot be complete healing without access to justice. HAI provides access to justice through:

  • Strengthening civil society with capacity building, mentoring, advocacy support, legal awareness sessions, and other methods that bolster citizens’ ability to hold government accountable.
  • Supporting and monitoring protection initiatives to ensure that survivors of human rights abuses and other vulnerable and marginalized people are not further harmed by inability to access protective services (including medical, MHPSS, shelter, legal).
  • Building capacity of justice system actors and institutions so that they are able to fulfill their obligations to citizens by protecting rights, addressing impunity of perpetrators, and eradicating discriminatory practices.
  • Providing direct legal services to victims who need representation in a variety of areas.