UNICEF and DJAG Collaborate to Support Village Court Services
Launched: May 2016
By Nick Turner Innovation Specialist, Papua New Guinea
A collaboration between UNICEF Papua New Guinea and the Department of Justice and Attorney General’s (DJAG) Village Courts and Land Mediation Secretariat is seeing improved data collection taking place for many court cases involving women and children.
The Village Courts of Papua New Guinea fall within Section 172 of the Constitution. Since their inception, the Village Courts have played a vital role in the justice system of Papua New Guinea, providing access to justice for a significant portion of the population. The more formal courts of the country are inaccessible to many Papua New Guineans and, in many cases, are inappropriate to the types of disputes that go before Village Courts. Although most Village Courts are located in outlying rural areas, they are also found in and around cities and settlements.
There are currently 1,646 Village Courts located across the country, with their main function to ensure peace and harmony in the area for which it is established by mediating in, and endeavouring to obtain just and amicable settlement of disputes.
The Village Courts and Land Mediation Secretariat is responsible for the collection of data from each of these 1,646 Village Courts. A Clerk is appointed to each court on the Secretariat’s behalf and is tasked with completing a tally sheet of key indicators such as case type, and the number of juvenile defendants following each court sitting.
The Clerk uses this data gathered to complete a Quarterly Return Form (QRF), which is to be sent to the Secretariat.
Due to Papua New Guinea’s rugged terrain and poor infrastructure, the return rate for the QRFs was low. For the first two quarters of 2016, not a single QRF was submitted to the Secretariat from any of the 1,646 Village Courts.
A pilot project powered by RapidPro was established in July 2016 allowing Village Court Clerks to submit their weekly court reports via SMS directly to the Village Courts and Land Mediation team.
Via RapidPro, Clerks report on a set of key indicators that look at the types of sittings being held in each Village Court, as well as the number of defendants and complainants that come through each sitting, with a particular focus on juveniles using the Village Courts setting.
The objectives of the project are:
• To measure the level of crime in communities and what types of crime are most common
• To collect data on children in the justice system
• To improve planning, budgeting, and service delivery by filling gaps in current data collection
• To improve reporting to management, stakeholders, and partners
Twenty-seven clerks went through training on how to report on key indicators via SMS, and thus far the pilot has been a success. Of the 1,646 village courts scattered across PNG the only courts that are currently managing to report regular data to the secretariat are those involved with this project.
The data collected from those reporting helps to strengthen the capacity of the Village Courts system and allow them to plan and budget, as well as provide them with a mechanism over which they can communicate with Clerks (via the RapidPro platform).
UNICEF PNG’s Child Protection Section also utilise this data to better plan for programmes that can assist with limiting/helping juveniles that are subjected to the justice system here in Papua New Guinea.
Thanks to RapidPro, and this collaborative project between DJAG and UNICEF PNG, Village Court Clerks no longer have to worry about sending forms via post, and can instead use basic SMS to report on key indicators and provide the Secretariat with data that has been verging on non-existent for many years.
UNICEF PNG is now working with the Secretariat looking at ways in which the project can be rolled out to additional provinces within PNG to strengthen data collection within the law and justice sector.