UCL Faculty of Laws


Prof Pleasence drafts global guidance supporting UN’s 1st civil justice Sustainable Development Goal

6 May 2020

Professor Pascoe Pleasence was involved in the preparatory work that made the case for and demonstrated the feasibility of the first ever Sustainable Development Goal focused on civil justice, which the United Nations approved in March 2020.


In March 2020 the United Nations (UN) officially approved a first ever civil justice focused Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target (16.3.3), to form part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs are described by the UN as providing a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The inclusion of a civil justice target reflects increasing recognition of the links between the experience of ‘justiciable’ problems and wider social problems and the role of legal assistance services in efforts to address continuing poverty and inequality.

The unprecedented broadening of the focus of the SDG access to justice targets beyond criminal justice was the culmination of years of consultation and preparatory work that made the case for and demonstrated the feasibility of the new target 16.3.3. Central to this preparatory work, and providing the foundations for measurement of the new target, was Professors Pascoe Pleasence (Professor of Empirical Legal Studies at UCL Laws) and Nigel Balmer drafting of global guidance on the conduct of ‘legal needs’ surveys (published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) late in 2018). Professor Pleasence also led the drafting of a standalone access to justice chapter in the new UN Handbook of Governance Statistics (published by the UN Praia Group on Governance Statistics – a group established in 2015 by the UN Statistical Commission and mandated to develop “a handbook on governance statistics for national statistical offices” – in February 2020), and provided assistance to the OECD, OSJI and UN bodies in specifying the new target.

A senior OSJI director described publication of the legal needs survey guidance and UN Handbook on Governance statistics as providing “a methodological and normative basis for implementing the new civil justice indicator and more broadly, expanding the field of Access to Justice globally.”