The Liaison Office (TLO), founded in 2003, an Afghan non-governmental organization (NGO) emerged from a Swiss peace pilot project supported by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung on good governance. The pilot project was designed and implemented in response to the request of community elders and influential individuals from southeastern provinces, who wanted to actively participate in peace and reconstruction process of Afghanistan. Since its establishment in early 2000s, TLO has evolved into a national and independent non-government organization (NGO) registered under number 611 with the Ministry of Economy, Government of Afghanistan.
Although TLO works on a range of areas within Afghanistan, peace building and access to justice remains one of the key areas of the organizational domain. TLO works at local, provincial and national levels for peace building and access to justice initiatives. TLO advocates for raising and incorporating unheard local voices on peace in the national peace process of Afghanistan. TLO also works extensively to empower both formal and informal justice system in Afghanistan and improve their accountability, transparency, decrease human rights violations and make them accessible for all Afghans including men, women, and children.
TLO works to strengthen the formal state justice institutions including- Directorates of Justice (DoJ), Provincial Courts, Provincial Attorney General, and independent justice organizations such as AIBA, APA, AWJA, and LUA. This is done through various interventions including public awareness of the formal justice services available to Afghan population, improving the pace of justice delivery, and increasing accountability and transparency of the formal justice institution with a complaint mechanism in place in the provinces to record, follow and advocate complaints in these institutions.
Since the informal justice system is preferred system for justice delivery in majority of the communities in Afghanistan, TLO works closely with informal justice actors to build their understanding and knowledge of Afghan legislation in order to deliver justice during Jirgas. The focus also remains to monitor and reduce the human rights violation especially in case of women due to some of the illegal practices by informal justice providers such as Baad and Badal.
TLO’s Peace Building and Access to Justice Department focuses on the following areas and contributes directly and indirectly to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 (gender equality), 10 (reduced inequalities), 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions), and 17 (partnerships for the goals).
Peace Building: TLO works to inspire and influence the people of Afghanistan, both men and women, to participate and engage in peace building and conflict prevention, mediation, and resolution.
Good Governance: In contributing towards improvement of governance, TLO aims to increase transparency and accountability of government institutions for the use of public resources and policies. TLO strengthens communities by engaging them in the government processes, implementation, and monitoring of government activities.
Advocacy: TLO aims to strengthen the engagement of civil society organizations, available networks and platforms to lobby and advocate for improved access to justice. TLO focuses for lobbying and advocating for improved court oversight, behavioral change in justice actors, as well as judges’ respect for human rights.
Human Rights: Peace and good governance are critical in ensuring respect for human rights. TLO takes a rights-based approach to development by implementing programming that aims to empower all people of Afghanistan, to know and exercise their rights as Afghan citizens regardless of their age, ethnicity, gender, or other factors.
Capacity Building: TLO focuses on providing capacity building programs for both formal and informal justice institutions as means to provide these actors with the tools to take active roles as agents of change in their respective institutions and communities. TLO provides capacity building trainings on a range of topics related to human rights, good governance, advocacy, leadership, management, accountability on national and sub-national levels.
Consultations: TLO focuses on assembling views/comments/feedbacks of Afghan citizens on draft laws, regulations, by laws, and procedures in order to provide government and parliamentarians effective feedback on drafts as well as incorporate different viewpoints by conducting consultations.
Traditional dispute resolution:
|“When the Commission (CCM) started, people didn’t know about our work. Now the Commission is quite popular and even conflicting parties ask the Governor to refer their disputes to us.”Khost CCM Member|
Since the establishment of the organization in 2003, TLO has worked closely with traditional community leadership. TLO’s relationship with Traditional Dispute Resolution (TDR) actors, tribal elders, and tribal councils as well as shuras and jirga representatives is vital to all of TLO’s work, from research (conflict mapping, area analysis etc.) to livelihoods improvement and, most notably for the facilitation of TDR-related activities throughout Afghanistan. Projects dedicated to strengthening and reforming TDR has been at the center of the TLO’s work profile since 2006. In a first of its kind, the TLO’s Khost sub-office facilitated establishment of the Commission on Conflict Mediation (CCM), a joint effort between local tribal elders and the then Khost Provincial Governor to resolve longstanding resource conflicts.. The CCMs were designed to specifically include women –as an inclusive approach to conflict resolution in Afghanistan.
TLO’s efforts at strengthening the role and importance of TDR in Afghanistan, can be assessed through its efforts undertaken for the formulation and drafting of a ‘Law on Conciliation’ in Afghanistan. After several rounds of engagement and consultations with tribal elders from Nangarhar, Kandahar, Herat, Paktia, Balkh, and Kabul and with a capstone National Seminar held in Kabul in September 2016, a draft law to strengthen TDR and the formal justice sector was prepared and presented to the Legal Council of the Office of the President of Afghanistan. The draft is now awaiting confirmation from the Cabinet and referral to the Parliament of Afghanistan.
In addition, TLO is also the primary sub-contractor to Checchi Consulting Company, Inc. on the Assistance for the Development of Afghan Legal Access and Transparency (ADALAT), TDR reform component, operating on a total budget of USD 2.9 million. This project is aimed at strengthening the role of TDR in reforming the justice sector in Afghanistan. It is currently implemented in four districts of Khost and Kunar and specifically engages in the development of spinsary groups (or female elders) to increase women’s access to justice along with the local tribal elders and village elders. A primary focus of the project is to impart specific training on select Afghan laws (both civil and criminal) and the Shari’ah code in order to do away with customary practices such as baad, badal and walwar. Further recognizing the need for widespread justice sector reform, TLO along with four other local CSOs is working with Cordaid and Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Netherlands, through a consortium called SALAH to lobby and advocate for local communities to have greater access to formal justice institutions.