Informal Justice and the International Community in Afghanistan

TitleInformal Justice and the International Community in Afghanistan
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCoburn, N
Subtitle / Series TitleUSIP Peaceworks
InstitutionUnited States Institute of Peace
CityWashington D.C.

Informal justice is an often debated yet poorly understood concept in Afghanistan. Generally, it refers to a series of mechanisms, such as local councils (shuras and jirgas),  that are outside of the state’s direct control—though not necessarily beyond its influence - and that are used to resolve disputes and conflicts in a manner perceived as legitimate by local communities. While few Afghans have confidence in the state’s ability to deliver justice through the formal court system, the informal justice sector in Afghanistan provides a pervasive and effective, if sometimes flawed, venue for the majority of the Afghan population to access justice. However, large, internationally sponsored programs attempting to promote rule of law through the informal justice sector have faced serious paradigmatic and programmatic challenges that have made these programs generally ineffective and, at times, counterproductive. In particular, failure to understand fragile local power dynamics and efforts to apply a unitary model have changed structures of local legitimacy and accountability and may have emboldened or empowered local actors with limited community oversight. Smaller, Afghan-led initiatives have met with more success in increasing predictable dispute resolution, suggesting that certain types of small, flexible, and context-responsive programs focused on linking the formal and informal sectors can promote more predictable access to justice, particularly given the challenges facing formal sector reform. Full Executive SummaryFull Report

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