Community-based dispute resolution in Afghanistan

News and Press Release
Originally published
Increasing attention is being paid to the so-called informal justice systems that exist in Afghanistan. AREU has conducted in-depth qualitative research on community-based dispute resolution (CBDRi.e., informal justice) in four provinces of Afghanistan, examining links and relationships between the state and CBDR, CBDR processes, CBDR principles, and gender dynamics in CBDR. Among the key findings are:

- CBDR processes are not static and do not rest on an unchanging, imagined version of tradition and custom. They are instead continually revised over time to adapt to changing social relationships, political structures and new problems.

- Strong links exist between state and CBDR actors, with cases often referred between them.

- CBDR has capacities to maintain peace and social cohesion within communities, which is beyond the remit of the state justice sector; CBDR should therefore not be simply considered a stop-gap where there is a weak state justice system.

- While women's access to and participation in CBDR is constrained, spaces in which women do access and influence it can be found, and decisions can provide recourse for women to assert their rights.

Three publications from the CBDR research are now available for download at, and the case studies are available in hardcopy from the AREU office (the policy note will be printed in early 2010):

- A Holistic Justice System for Afghanistan (PN), by Deborah J. Smith and Jay Lamey

- Community-Based Dispute Resolution in Nangarhar Province (CS), by Deborah J. Smith

- Community-Based Dispute Resolution in Bamiyan Province (CS), by Deborah J. Smith and Shelly Manalan

- Case studies from Balkh and Kabul Provinces will be released in 2010.

The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) is an independent research organisation based in Kabul. AREU's mission is to conduct high-quality research that informs and influences policy and practice. AREU also actively promotes a culture of research and learning by strengthening analytical capacity in Afghanistan and facilitating reflection and debate. Fundamental to AREU's vision is that its work should improve Afghan lives.

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