Open Justice Policy
The justice system is fundamental for democracy. To ensure citizen confidence, to transparent all its actions and to ensure the legitimacy of judicial decisions, the Judicial Branch joined the worldwide effort to promote open government partnership with the creation of an institutional policy of Open Justice, unique in the region, which promotes judicial management based on transparency, citizen participation and institutional collaboration. It will benefit all users of the Judicial Branch.
The Open Justice Policy comes to solve problems such as the delegitimization of the Judicial Branch, due to acts of corruption, lack of transparency in their actions and lack of accountability. The implementation of the Open Justice policy expands and improves the way in which the population can obtain information about the institutional work, which facilitates the accountability, the public debate and citizen participation. Likewise, meeting spaces and communication channels are created, so that citizens can assume an active role in the design, proposals and policies making processes of the Judicial Branch. Recovering the confidence of citizens and preventing acts of corruption are the main goals of the Open Justice policy.
The Costa Rican Judicial Branch, through the National Commission of the Justice Administration Improvement (CONAMAJ), is the first to implement an Open Justice policy in the world. This policy aims to transparent the management of the Judiciary for the fulfillment of access to information through opening data processes, and also seeks to guarantee the participation of civil society in the design, execution, evaluation of processes, policies and services, and promotes spaces and co-creation mechanisms, alliances and networks for collaborative work. It aims for a quality public service that responds to the needs of citizens.
In order to ensure that this innovation is sustained over time, a strategic action plan was drawn up with specific objectives, goals and indicators, through which the policy will be monitored for the next 5 years. In addition, this strategic action plan was included in the strategic plan of the Judicial Branch itself and the Open Justice topic was placed as one of the institutional strategic axes.
The judiciary has been immersed in a process of paradigm change that seeks to open up and seeks to put as the center of its work the institution users and civil society, taking into account the contributions that society can generate for the improvement of the work performed in the different areas of the institution, benefiting all users of the services that the Judicial system offers.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Costa Rican Judicial Branch responds positively to the call of the Open Government Partnership and incorporates policies and strategic action plans aimed at producing greater satisfaction in the Costa Rican society by offering breadth, dialogue and the creation of public value in all the services that offers. All this through the implementation of the first institutional Open Justice Policy at national and regional level, which was co-created with civil society and citizens.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The policy is already approved. We are now in the stage of identifying new opportunities, generating ideas, developing proposals and implementaing them. Also discovering new ways for the implementation.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The Open Justice Policy was co-created with the collaboration of international and national experts, as well as the partnership with civil society, organizations and universities. This includes strategies that lead to optimal responses in more competitive, dynamic and complex social, economic and technological environments. Likewise, the participation of civil society was not limited to the co-creation of the policy, since spaces were guaranteed for working groups for collaborative processes.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The promotion of a more transparent management, greater access to public information, a more understandable language, modernize processes, and consolidate accountability, will benefit every Judicial Branch user and the society itself.
In addition, work has been done on identifying the Judicial Branch open data users, to promote the use of public information interest in order to transparent judicial management through technological mechanisms.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The implementation of the Open Justice policy began in January 2019; therefore there are still no tangible results.
However, it has begun with a process of awareness and training to all judicial officers about the Open Justice Policy and its benefits. In addition, a working group conformed by civil society is supervising the institutional processes and the implementation of the policy.
Citizen participation initiatives have been carried out and a Transparency Commission has been created that has developed norms and actions for the promotion of judicial management based on ethical values.
It is expected that with the implementation of the policy and its strategic action plan, there will be an open data portal with institutional information, and spaces for citizen participation will be strengthened; there will be open courts and open public defense offices, among other initiatives that conforms the strategic action plan for the next 5 years.
Challenges and Failures
One of the challenges of the policy construction process was the cultural change in the Judicial Branch officers, to democratize the decision-making spaces by opening channels for listening and dialogue.
Questioning the technocratic and legalistic vision that has prevailed for decades, by recognizing and validating the citizen’s contributions, who offer many ideas and proposals to improve the institution management.
The lack of participatory culture of the Costa Rican society, and the lack of civic education, was also challenges that we had to face.
Conditions for Success
The Open Justice Policy has budgetary and human resources strengthened.
The Council of Magistrates, which is the decision-making body, approved the Policy, and adjusted institutional rules to the requirements of the Policy as the obligation to incorporate specific actions and open justice activities, such as citizen participation in every office in the Judicial Branch.
The institutional policy has a strong politic support, being a priority in the decision –making body of the Judicial Branch.
The initiative has not been replicated yet, because it is the first Open Justice Policy in the world. But it could be replicated in other judicial Branches in the region, adapted to the idiosyncrasies, conditions and characteristics of each country.
It is possible to replicate spaces for citizen participation and open data strategies, transparency and accountability.
Costa Rica's experience in the co-creation and implementation of this policy can serve as an example of co-created public policy for the entire national and international public sector.
One of the lessons learned is the processes building from the public value perspective. This innovative perspective requires the institution to rethink itself in terms of the citizen needs and to question whether its actions contribute value, not to itself as it was usually prioritized, but to the society.
Creating this policy in conjunction with civil society, from design to implementation, has been a positive way of knowing the real needs and demands of society, which can often be different from what the institution itself believed. In this way, it responds effectively, efficiently and maximizing the resources available, executing actions that respond to a real need.
Bringing the institution closer to the communities, forced judicial officers to relearn even the way they talk and communicate, it was learned that true access to justice entails the use of popular language, and that there are different needs in different areas and communities of the country, therefore we must know the users and their social and cultural contexts.