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ABF’s Access to Justice Research Initiative Receives Grant from the International Development Research Center to Support a New Global Justice Data Observatory

January 26, 2023, Press releases

CHICAGO, January 26 – The American Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Research Initiative, led by ABF Faculty Fellow Rebecca Sandefur and Senior Program Officer Matthew Burnett, has received a grant from Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC) for a new global project on access to justice research: the Justice Data Observatory (JDO). 

As a part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts, the IDRC champions and funds research and innovation, such as the JDO, within and alongside developing regions to drive global change. The organization invests in high-quality research, shares knowledge with researchers and policymakers, and mobilizes its global alliances to build a more sustainable and inclusive world. Legal empowerment and fair and equitable justice are core priorities of the IDRC’s Democratic and Inclusive Governance portfolio.   

“IDRC is delighted to support the Justice Data Observatory to identify a shared data and research agenda on people-centered justice, with the participation of Global South researchers and practitioners,” said Adrian Di Giovanni of IDRC. “A shared agenda is critical to guide and propel new data collection to achieve access to justice for all under Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The $250,000 grant will be distributed over two years to support the initial launch of the JDO, including engaging researchers, government, and civil society partners globally in its design and development. The World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), key partners in this project, will work collaboratively with the IDRC and ABF Access to Justice Research Initiative to advance this work by developing shared research questions, identifying sources of data and gaps in evidence, and mapping centers of research activity.

“The ABF Access to Justice Research Initiative is thrilled to collaborate with the IDRC and partners like the World Bank and OECD to launch and grow the Justice Data Observatory into an inclusive global support that builds and amplifies evidence on people-centered access to justice,” said Matthew Burnett. “By engaging researchers, civil society, and government partners globally we hope to establish a shared vision and center of gravity for this critical work.”

Over an initial period of two years, the JDO will endeavor to build and shape access to justice research as a global field by:

  1. Convening groups of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners across low-, middle-, and high-income countries
  2. Developing synthetic and integrative approaches to shared research questions on access to justice globally
  3. Supporting the production and dissemination of original access to justice research and sources of data related to shared research questions, and
  4. Advocating for evidence-based approaches to access to justice policy and practice.

“Growing interest in access to justice by policymakers has created a new and urgent demand for research evidence, but the production of rigorous research relevant to understanding or improving people-centered access to justice has lagged behind the need for such knowledge,” said Professor Sandefur. “The Justice Data Observatory represents an important step towards meeting this demand.”

The ABF Access to Justice Research Initiative is also excited to welcome Elizabeth Mucha as its new Program Manager and partner in this work. Elizabeth joins the ABF from the US-UK Fulbright Commission and will support both the JDO and the ABF/JPB Access to Justice Scholars Program. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s in human rights from the London School of Economics (LSE). 


About the American Bar Foundation 

The American Bar Foundation (ABF) is the world’s leading research institute for the empirical and interdisciplinary study of law. The ABF seeks to expand knowledge and advance justice through innovative, interdisciplinary, and rigorous empirical research on law, legal processes, and legal institutions. To further this mission the ABF will produce timely, cutting-edge research of the highest quality to inform and guide the legal profession, the academy, and society in the United States and internationally. The ABF’s primary funding is provided by the American Bar Endowment and the Fellows of The American Bar Foundation

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