Community-Based Dispute Resolution Processes in Kabul City
This is the Kabul Case Study from AREU’s community-based dispute resolution (CBDR) research. The goal of the research is increasing knowledge of local dispute-resolution mechanisms, practices and principles to support contextually informed justice sector reform across the country. The study’s findings suggest that:
1. CBDR is effective and sustainable. CBDR decisions work because decision-makers strategically balance individual rights (justice) enshrined in statutory and Sharia law with customary principles designed to protect community stability (peace).
2. CBDR in Kabul is highly adaptive. CBDR in Kabul is the product of a rich tradition of local autonomy as well as the rejection of a state seen as corrupt, inefficient, and ineffective. It combines traditional dispute resolution processes with more progressive values in response to changes in society as a whole. By keeping step with social change, CBDR retains legitimacy among community members over time.
3. CBDR is increasingly sensitive to human rights concerns. As a result of these changes, the use of customary principles that violate human rights is declining, particularly in the urban setting. Critically, this process is happening internally and at a pace generally tolerable to the community as a whole.
4. Most disputes are not about ethnicity. In the vast majority of cases, disputes within Afshar were not the result of ethnic conflict. However, residents were sensitive both to the way ethnicity had been used a tool of war during the mujahiddin era and to how it has become a focus of state-building efforts today.
5. CBDR and state dispute resolution processes are closely linked. Community- and state actors consistently work together to mitigate and ensure durable solutions to conflict. This collaboration amplifies the authority of stakeholders on both sides.
6. Community members depend on keeping state justice and CBDR separate. Actors on both sides of the divide viewed CBDR processes as legitimate but “informal,” with state justice “legal” but lacking legitimacy. Community members value the ability to choose between state and local dispute resolution processes and often pursue pragmatic combinations of the two. Community members welcome official recognition of CBDR decisions—not because they want the state to enforce them, but rather that they might have more legal weight should disputants need to turn to state processes. However, community and district-level actors fear that too much direct interaction between CBDR and the government would undermine the legitimacy of local processes.