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Research Consultant – Customary and Informal Justice and SDG16+ (2023)

International Development Law Organization

Overview & Responsibilities


The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) enables governments and empowers people to reform laws and strengthen institutions to promote peace, justice, sustainable development, and economic opportunity. We contribute to creating stable and inclusive societies where every person can live free from fear and want, in dignity and under the rule of law.


Established in 2020, the Working Group on Customary and Informal Justice (CIJ) and SDG16+ draws together diverse justice stakeholders from around the world to pursue a common agenda that advocates for the centrality of CIJ systems in achieving justice for all. The Working Group collaboratively draws upon existing evidence and policy frameworks and generates new practice-based insights on how CIJ systems respond to people’s justice needs, taking into account the dynamism of CIJ and significant variation across contexts, as well as including critical analysis of the drawbacks of CIJ systems for women and other marginalized groups. It explores and seeks to identify the most effective means of including CIJ systems in efforts to achieve justice for all, and shares key findings through policy- and practice-oriented recommendations for the global justice.

The Working Group’s shared vision is of a world in which all people have equal access to justice that meets their needs, provided by systems which are inclusive, responsive, effective, and consistent with human rights norms and standards; in which states use data and evidence to understand CIJ systems as playing a key role in people-centred justice and the rule of law in their distinct contexts; in which donors support and invest in evidence-based access to justice across a spectrum of justice providers; and in which civil society has the space and capacity to empower justice seekers, safeguard their rights, and demand accountability from all justice providers.

More information on the Working Group and participating organizations and individuals can be found at the link here.


More than five billion people lack meaningful access to justice. As a result, they are often denied their rights, marginalized, displaced from land, and subjected to violence without remedy. Experience of injustice is acknowledged as a key conflict driver. To tackle this global justice gap, the 2030 Agenda commits UN Member States to ensure equal access to justice for all, articulated in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 on peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, and specific targets associated with other SDGs (collectively, SDG16+).

In order to fulfil the promise of SDG16+, it is imperative that the global justice community engages with the empirical reality of customary and informal justice and factors this into justice delivery and programming. In a wide variety of contexts, people utilize a broad spectrum of what are variously called alternative, community-based, customary, grassroots, hybrid, indigenous, informal, local, non-state, religious, and other systems to resolve disputes and seek redress for crimes or grievances. While CIJ providers may be the only option available to many people, they are also often accepted, or even preferred, by the people who use them as having legitimacy and capability to dispense justice or resolve disputes*.* CIJ systems are often more grounded in the communities they serve, more accessible, affordable, and proximate than formal systems; they tend to emphasize restorative justice, flexible rules and procedures, and consent-based negotiated solutions that are culturally resonant. However, CIJ systems often also reflect unequal power dynamics and may reproduce the status quo and conservative social norms, with particularly adverse effects for women, the poor and other marginalized groups who tend to be disproportionately reliant on CIJ.

Despite these challenges (which also characterize many formal justice systems), the case for greater recognition of CIJ systems is straightforward: the majority of people resolve their problems and claim their rights outside of formal justice systems, and their first resort is overwhelmingly to CIJ systems. For many people, CIJ systems regulate access to land, water and other natural resources, and their family relations. While CIJ systems coexist and intersect to varying degrees with formal or statutory law in almost every country, the global justice community remains overwhelmingly focused on formal justice, mostly replicating solution-driven assumptions about how access to justice is best achieved. A sharper understanding of the importance, diversity, and complexities of CIJ systems is needed, as are tools or frameworks to facilitate politically astute engagement with all justice actors, including CIJ where appropriate, to help realize equal access to justice for all.

In 2021, the Working Group developed a Joint Action Plan that which sets out a strategy for accelerating action on the global commitment to achieve access to justice for all by 2030 (SDG16.3). The intended outcome of this Joint Action Plan is an enabling policy environment, at national and global levels, for governments, development partners, and civil society to engage effectively with CIJ in efforts to build more inclusive justice systems that contribute to achieving equal justice for all, and evidence-based tools supporting them to do so. The main deliverable of the Joint Action Plan will be a final report of the Working Group to be presented at the 2nd SDG Summit in Sept 2023.

The Working Group’s Joint Action Plan was recognized by the Justice Action Coalition, a major group of justice stakeholders coordinating actions in support of SDG16.3. The Justice Action Coalition is a network of countries and partners who are allies in championing equal access to justice of for all. The guiding ambition of the Justice Action Coalition is to close the global justice gap and the goal is to achieve measurable progress in justice outcomes for people and communities by the second SDG Summit in 2023. The Justice Action Coalition integrated the Working Group’s final report into its own strategy, as one of the coalition’s 10 Joint Deliverables to be presented in advance of the 2nd SDG Summit.

On behalf of the Working Group, IDLO will secure the services of a Research Consultant to develop the aforementioned report in 2023. Drawing on in-depth background material produced by another consultant in early 2023, and inputs on that background material provide by diverse Working Group stakeholders during a series of consultations, the final report will be a succinct, coherent, accessible, and policy-relevant product presenting a consensus on engagement with CIJ as crafted by Working Group members. Following preparation of a draft report and a lengthy period of comment and deliberation within the Working Group, the Research Consultant will edit and finalize the report to be ready for publication and presentation at the 2nd SDG Summit.


Scope of work

Working under the supervision of IDLO’s Director of Research and Learning, the Research Consultant will:

  • Develop a draft report on CIJ and SDG16+ that makes a convincing case to governments, development partners, and civil society for, and describes a Working Group consensus on what works best to deliver, engagement with CIJ systems in efforts to build more inclusive justice systems that contribute to achieving equal justice for all, including specific feature sections on good practice in mobilizing financing for justice interventions related to CIJ, CIJ data, cooperation between formal and CIJ actors, and managing the politics of engagement with CIJ, among other themes to be determined
  • Finalize the report, integrating substantive changes proposed by Working Group members and in accordance with detailed direction from the Working Group, exercising overall editorial authority to produce an outstanding document that is succinct, coherent, accessible, and policy-relevant


The methodology indicated in this section is indicative. The Research Consultant will be expected to propose a detailed methodological framework in the inception report. The Research Consultant will be responsible for producing an appropriate theory-based methodology. The Research Consultant should use, but not be limited to, the following methods for data collection:

  • Desk review: The Research Consultant should scan the relevant publications of Working Group members and relevant policy documents from major international justice stakeholders, as well as major academic databases, in order to build a succinct “literature review” relevant both to policy and practice in the justice space. This work will supplement in-depth background material produced by another consultant in 2022.
  • Key informant interviews: The consultant will conduct 5-10 in-depth key informant interviews (mostly online) to gather primary data from key stakeholders, including members of the Working Group, public officials from a selected cross-section of countries, UN system, bilateral and multilateral donors, scholars, representatives of justice seekers (especially women’s and indigenous peoples’ organizations), and CIJ practitioners, among others, supplementing more extensive key informant interviews conducted by another consultant in early 2023. For this, the Research Consultant should develop an interview protocol.

Main tasks

Within this framework, the Research Consultant will be responsible to undertake the following main tasks under the direct supervision of IDLO’s Director of Research and Learning:

  • Develop and submit an inception report outlining understanding of the Terms of Reference and a proposed workplan indicating clear milestones and timelines
  • Conduct supplemental desk review and implement data collection through key informant interviews as needed
  • Develop and submit a draft report for review and input by Working Group members
  • Develop and submit a final report integrating substantive changes as confirmed by Working Group members for approval by the Working Group and IDLO for publication.

Job Requirements


  • Graduate degree in a relevant field of study (anthropology, development studies, human rights, law, management, political science, public administration) or other relevant field from a recognized university is required

Work experience

  • Minimum 10 years’ relevant professional experience in the areas of access to justice and rule of law, democratic governance, human rights, peacebuilding and conflict prevention, and / or women’s equality and empowerment; strong preference for demonstrated experience working specifically on issues related to CIJ, and two or more of the aforementioned areas
  • Outstanding track record conducting research and writing for diverse stakeholders, including high-level policy or academic publications

Specific knowledge and competencies

  • Demonstrated broad and substantive knowledge of CIJ systems, including the academic literature and relevant policy frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda
  • Superior research skills, both qualitative and quantitative, and sharp analytical capabilities
  • Strong technical drafting and editing skills in English, with rigorous attention to detail
  • Proven ability to see through tasks set and deliver results
  • Proven ability to work under pressure with tight deadlines, flexibility, and an entrepreneurial spirit, under limited supervision with a high degree of accuracy and attention to quality and detail
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and experience working in a diverse, multi-cultural professional environment
  • Strong coordination, organization, and coalition-building skills
  • Established networks and contacts related to access to justice and rule of law, democratic governance, human rights, peacebuilding and conflict prevention, and / or women’s equality and empowerment a significant asset
  • Availability and willingness to travel, if necessary, including to insecure fragile contexts


  • Fluency in written and spoken English is required; ability to conduct interviews in Arabic, French, and Spanish an advantage

Terms & Conditions

The consultancy will be home-based, commencing in March 2023 and ending no later than July 2023. The total fixed lumpsum remuneration for the assignment will be €20 000. Payment will be made upon receipt by the Research Consultant of deliverables of high quality, and upon approval by the supervisor, as per the mutually agreed schedule.

The deadline for applications is 31 January 2023. In the interest of making the most effective use of resources, only short-listed candidates will be contacted during the selection process.

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of the work being performed by the employee/consultant/intern assigned to this work. This may not be an exhaustive list of all duties and responsibilities. The Director-General of IDLO reserves the right to amend and change responsibilities or even to cancel the consultancy opportunity to meet business and organizational needs as necessary. All applications will be treated with the strictest confidentiality and in compliance with IDLO’s policy on personal data protection.

How to apply

Please make sure your application is completed online on the following link to be considered for the role:

Research Consultant – Customary and Informal Justice and SDG16+ (2023) in | Careers at Home-Based (