Water rights and conflict resolution processes in Afghanistan: The case of the Sar-i-Pul sub-basin

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Research, policy and implementation surrounding conflict in Afghanistan has traditionally focused on civil and criminal disputes, meaning disagreements arising over natural resources, such as water, are typically overlooked. AREU’s Case Study focusing on water related conflicts within the Sar-i-Pul sub-basin assists in redressing this gap; enhancing current debate through an exploration of formal and informal resolution processes.

Examining the on-going gulf between actual water management practices and the recent “good water governance” models established in the 2009 Water Law, the study demonstrates the variance in water-related conflict resolution according to individual circumstances and describes how local actors and institutions engage in this.

In determining the various means of moderating tensions arising over water-access, it highlights the necessity of maintaining a flexibility and responsiveness that goes beyond the one-size-fits-all SBC model.

As a result of the research a number of findings with regards to the resolution of water-related conflict are put forward:

· Those involved in the resolution process must possess a broad understanding of the social and political dimensions of the conflict

· The complementary capacities of different actors should be recognised and included

· Policymakers and local government need to adopt a more pragmatic approach in balancing decision-making roles among various stakeholders

· Rigid distinctions between stakeholders categories may be ultimately misleading in conflict resolution as these are often much more blurred on the ground

· Choices of actors are not static, but are given to change as the conflict evolves