Over the past few years, legal needs surveys have gained momentum as a specialized tool for studying legal conflicts and barriers to access to justice. They can be used to obtain evidence that can in turn inform the design of public policies on access to justice. In essence, legal needs surveys are considered ideal tools for describing the “demand” for access to justice. During the 1990s, empirical studies of legal needs began to be widely used in the United States and the countries of the British Commonwealth. Recently, several Latin American nations have developed these tools.

“Measuring for decision-making: Surveys on legal and public policy needs related to access to justice” is the first volume of the Judicial Policy and Conflict collection organized by JSCA Research and Projects Director Marco Fandiño. The book is the result of two research projects on legal needs surveys developed by JSCA’s team.

The first consists of a systematic review of the surveys conducted at the international level. The authors analyze their conceptual and methodological attributes, exploring the possibility that different methodological decisions impact the production of findings. It is a good source of information on the various forms that these surveys take in different countries and the main findings in the area of legal conflict and barriers to access to justice.

The second study analyzes the impact of these surveys on access to justice public policies in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay. It also includes alternatives that could increase the use of evidence in justice public policies. The goal is to strengthen the conceptual and methodological attributes of the surveys and to understand them as one part of a broad and diverse set of evidence that can only be used effectively if it is considered within the conceptual context of the entire public policy cycle. The recommendations point to using an approach to evidence that is based on the rights perspective, and the main attributes of that approach are discussed in the final part of the book.

We hope that the publication is of interest to everyone who works in the justice sector, public and judicial services, academia and civil society, especially those who formulate and implement access to justice projects, programs and policies.

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