Assistance for the Development of Afghan Legal Access and Transparency (ADALAT)— Traditional Dispute Resolution (TDR) commonly known ADALAT is a Checchi Consulting funded project implemented by The Liaison Office (TLO). The goal of the project is to increase TDR adherence to Afghan law, equitable treatment of disputants (including women), and adherence to human rights standards while preserving the TDR’s positive, culturally ingrained approach of resolving disputes by reconciling disputants and restoring harmony within the communities. Traditional Dispute Resolution (TDR) is widely recognizable and trusted mechanism in Afghanistan, and it effectively serves the primary cultural objective of reconciling disputants and maintaining community harmony. Even formal justice actors, recognizing these essential strengths of TDR, and the limitations of their own institutions, continue to rely heavily on the traditional justice system, referring many cases to TDR. In the process of reconciling disputants, however, specific illegal practices, such as Bada1, and faulty property/land dispute decisions can violate individual rights, causing harm and exacerbating or re-instigating disputes. TDR actors are also vulnerable to manipulation by powerful individuals (as are formal justice actors) and lack the means to separate intransigent disputants and enforce justice outcomes. While both formal and informal justice have strengths and weaknesses, collaboration between the two is often unstructured and ad-hoc, missing an opportunity for value-added collaboration. This project is designed to respond to these challenges and mitigate the negative elements of TDR while fostering mutually beneficial collaboration between the formal and informal justice sectors. The project consists of complementary legal education and solutions-based components that are effective at improving TDR decision making and access to quality justice in Afghanistan.
The main goal of this project is to improve citizens’ access to justice by creating strong linkage between the formal and informal justice sectors and greater consistency in the application of Afghan laws by traditional dispute resolution actors.
- Improve access to fair, transparent, and legal local justice services by reforming TDR mechanisms.
- Enhance and improve value-added collaboration between formal and informal justice actors.
- Facilitate the resolution of longstanding and destabilizing disputes.
This project was launched in 2016 in Khost and Kunar. In the first year of the implementation, the project was implemented as a pilot practice in two districts, one each in Khost and Kunar. After the success of the pilot phase, the project was subsequently expanded to five more provinces and 26 districts in the second year. This expansion included two more districts each in Khost and Kunar, four districts in Nangarhar, six districts in Herat, four districts in Paktia, two districts in Badghis and two districts in Ghor. The implementation of the project in the aforementioned provinces continued in the third year as well. During the 4th and 5th year, the project was expanded to 36 districts in additional nine provinces of Faryab, Herat, Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Bamyan, Balkh, Nuristan and Samangan. Following are the major activities implemented by the TLO through this project:
- Legal Workshops
Six Legal awareness workshops were organized focusing on criminal law, family law, property law, deeds, inheritance law, and constitutional law for targeted participants including male TDR practitioners, female elders, religious leaders, and state justice actors.
- Introductory Network Meetings: Introductory district network meeting of the district group or groups (in large districts with over 200 participants) were arranged for formal and informal justice actors. Structured agendas facilitated discussions to identify and assess the challenges to fair, impartial, and law-based justice, gaps in formal and informal justice collaboration, and challenging disputes.
- Capstone Network Meetings: The six-month core program ended with capstone network meetings in each district. The agenda provided participants an opportunity to discuss what they learned, how they were applying those lessons, future action plan including additional programming needs during the maintenance.
- Maintenance Network Meetings: Maintenance network meetings were held at the midpoint of the 12-month maintenance period. This provided an update on commitments made at the end of the core program, including, as examples, progress on intractable disputes, community legal awareness mentor trainings, etc.
- Handover Network Meetings: Finally, handover district network meeting to conclude maintenance programming marked the conclusion of activities in the district. The discussion allowed for reflection on successes and challenges during the implementation of reforms committed to in prior meetings.
- Provincial Network Meetings: Provincial network meetings for influential elders and officials from all selected provinces were conducted focusing on challenges, such as corruption in both the formal and informal justice sectors.
- Regional Network Meetings: The most respected and influential elders and officials from each district of adjacent provinces were invited to regional network meetings to assess the causes of problematic longstanding disputes, strategize their resolution, and volunteer to take action.
- Discussion Sessions:
To address the weaknesses in TDR as well as challenges faced by both TDR and state justice actors in resolving disputes, the program included solutions-based discussion sessions. The sessions provided members of the state-TDR working group and supervisory groups an opportunity to develop strategies for reducing and developing alternatives to harmful, illegal, and unsustainable TDR practices. Other discussion sessions would allow participants to address challenges faced by both the TDR and formal justice sectors. Each district core program work plan included a minimum of four discussion sessions of the following topics based on the need as laid out in the district assessments and by the participant requests.
- Alternatives to Baad – for men and women
- Addressing corruption – men and women
- Women’s participation and access to justice – men and women
- Addressing the influence of powerbrokers – men
- Longstanding disputes – men
- Ethics and best practice in TDR – men
- Alternatives to Machalgha (disputant deposits) – men
- Family matters – men and women
- TLO ROLE
TLO directly implemented the project in two provinces, while providing technical support to other CSO partners who were implementing the project in rest of the target provinces. The entire project mentorship and monitoring continues to be one of the major responsibilities of TLO. TLO mentors a variety of civil society organizations who are implementing TDR project in other targeted provinces to promote access to justice among public across the country.