Coronavirus, Global economy

The Global Economic Context for Justice for All

Professor Andrew Goudie, Visiting Professor, University of Strathclyde

You can read the full paper here

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an integral element of the United Nations Agenda 2030 vision[1], and SDG 16 has a specific focus on the promotion of justice: namely, to:

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

While much of the work to date in pursuit of this Goal has focussed on significantly enhancing justice systems  – both formal and informal –   and on the access of all people to the means to resolve criminal and civil injustice, the successful delivery of justice necessitates a far wider perspective.

As Agenda 2030 recognises, sustainable development depends not only on justice with respect to criminal and civil need but critically on sustainable and sustained economic, social and environmental justice, too.

Economic and social justice are central to  – and, indeed, pre-requisites for –  the vision for justice in the criminal and civil justice system. While justice services will always be necessary – and equality and ease of access for all is rightly an absolute objective here – reducing the flow of adults and children who come into unnecessary and avoidable contact – and especially, conflict – with the law is a prime objective.

Economic and social justice lies at the heart of this preventative priority since the roots of criminal and civil conflict and injustice very often lie in injustices deep within society.

Investing in society to address these deep-seated injustices is therefore crucial, and evidence suggests this yields significant returns for society as a whole, as well as for the individuals – both adults and children – concerned.

Moreover, establishing and delivering criminal and civil justice for all now equally necessitates a significant investment in justice systems – and indeed all – public services. Globally, there are major gaps in the provision of necessary justice services, and these gaps adversely impact on the vast majority of people.  Only a small proportion of the global population is estimated to have access to meaningful justice. This, in turn, feeds further inequalities and injustices.

COVID-19 hugely exacerbates this challenge. The future path of the global, and of national, economies will be central to the response to the challenge of injustice in all its forms.   Addressing criminal and civil injustice can not be seen in isolation from the complex economic environment in which people live their daily lives, nor as unaffected by the economic context of the post-COVID-19 era.  Appropriate resourcing will be massively challenging.

This paper looks at the global economic context in the light of COVID-19: at the immense economic impact of the health crisis, and additionally at the impact of the economic response to the crisis itself.

It sets out the outlook for the next decade at this stage of the crisis, and the very substantive implications for fiscal policy for the medium-term recovery period. Most starkly in the context of justice, it reflects on the future direction of public services in the context of unprecedented fiscal pressure and at a time of far greater demand for the State to intervene in addressing a wide range of economic, social and environmental objectives  –  all compelling and all urgent in the post-crisis era.

Resources are therefore very likely to be under severe pressure, with the resulting fiscal policy decisions having immensely important ramifications for justice for all, and for future generations.

You can read ‘The Global Economic Context for Justice for All’ in PDF format here.

[1]    United Nations:


Professor Andrew Goudie