Ten Problems for Justice in the 2020s

Justice Problems for the 2020s

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.3 calls for equal access to justice for all. We estimate that universal basic justice to address people’s everyday justice needs cost $20 per person a year in a typical low-income country, $64 in a middle-income country, $190 in a high-income country and $230 in an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member country [1]. Such costs are affordable in OECD countries, but the financing position is radically different in all low-income countries and a third of lower-middle-income countries where two billion people across 53 countries can’t afford even half the costs of providing universal basic justice.

A people-centered approach to justice starts with an understanding of people’s justice needs and designs solutions to respond to them. It is delivered by a justice system that is open and inclusive, and that works in collaboration with other sectors such as health, education, housing, and employment [2]. Closing the justice gap requires a transformation in ambition – a sustained effort to provide billions more people with access to justice. To deliver justice for all, countries must resolve people’s justice problems, prevent injustices large and small from occurring, and create opportunities for people to participate fully in their societies and economies.

The Global Agenda for Social Justice: Volume One, 2018, has six sections [3]: Policing and Criminal (In)Justice, with chapters on the war on drugs, police discrimination, wrongful convictions, and the criminalization of HIV status; Environmental Issues, with chapters on exposure to radiation, natural disasters, and energy policy; Gender and Sexuality, with chapters on masculinities and sex education; Violence against Precarious Groups, with chapters on violence against migrants, violence against sex workers, genocide, and torture; Inequalities and Disparities, with chapters on food insecurity, pensions for informal sector workers, and digital exclusion; Look Forward, with chapters focusing on global social problems, including an afterword to provide a closing perspective.

With the onset of the economic and financial crisis, social justice has deteriorated – on average – in the OECD and EU countries surveyed by the Social Justice Index. While the Social Justice Index shows a slight but ongoing upward trend since economic recovery began in 2014, the overall score remains below the pre-crisis level [4]. In addition, there are still striking discrepancies with regard to available opportunities to participate in society in the 41 countries surveyed.

The digital economy and e-commerce often inspire great hopes for the Global South. The Internet, mobile phones and the platform economy are supposed to offer the countries of the South the prospect of economic progress, new employment opportunities and a reduction in poverty. But unless it is regulated, digitalization runs the risk of amplifying the existing inequality within countries and between the Global South and the Global North [5]. Studies by the United Nations show that developing and emerging countries have so far achieved only a small share in cross-border e-commerce. At the same time, many of them are posting trade deficits in this area.

Starting from such general references, this booklet identifies ten relevant areas from very recent contributions put forward at academic level in the form journal articles, conference proceedings and students theses. Ten freely accessible internet references have been selected for each area and direct links are provided at the end of each chapter for own consultation. Our selected references do not intend to mirror ranking indexes nor establish novel classifications. On the contrary, they are meant to represent peer-reviewed, diverse and scientifically-sound case studies for vertical dissemination aimed at non-specialist readers. They will also be able to scoop even more references through the bibliography that is reported at the end of each selected reference.

Without further ado, these are the “Ten Problems for Justice in the 2020s” that we are going to introduce in this booklet:

  1. policies, 
  2. criminal,
  3. financial,
  4. drugs,
  5. environmental,
  6. violence,
  7. family,
  8. open access,
  9. artificial intelligence,
  10. diversity.

Each problem has its own dedicated chapter made of an introductory section, a short presentation of the ten selected references and a conclusions section.

The final chapter of this booklet will report the conclusions from each chapter again in order to provide a complete executive summary.


[1] M. Manuel et al., “Universal access to basic justice”, 2019, ODI, online at 

[2] The Task Force on Justice , “Justice for All”, 2019, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies , online at 

[3] G.W. Muschert et al. (eds.), “Global Agenda for Social Justice: Volume One”, 2018, Policy Press, Bristol, UK, online at 

[4] T. Hellmann et al., “Social Justice in the EU and OECD: Index Report 2019”, 2019, Bertelsmann Stiftung, online at 

[5] T. Fritz et al., “Global Justice 4.0: The impacts of digitalisation on the Global South”, 2019, Brot für die Welt, online at

“Ten Problems for Justice in the 2020s” booklet for Amazon Kindle, 2020; click on the cover to go to the dedicated Amazon listing page