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BACKGROUND: Traditional dispute resolution (TDR) is widely familiar and trusted in Afghanistan as it fulfills the primary cultural objective of reconciling disputants and maintaining community harmony. Even formal justice actors, recognizing these strengths 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 baad, 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.

In responding to these challenges, the USAID Rule of Law Stabilization – Informal Component (RLS-I) project’s extensive research and three iterations of implementation, evaluation, and refinement produced a relevant and targeted program model – from overall objectives, to strategy, to individual activity detail – for mitigating the negative elements of TDR while fostering mutually beneficial collaboration between the formal and informal justice sectors. The model, consisting of complementary legal education and solutions-based components, has proven effective at improving TDR decision making and access to quality justice in Afghanistan. Instrumental to the success of the RLS-I model, now renamed as the Afghanistan Justice Engagement Model (JEM), are CSO partners, which add value to the intervention by suggesting ways to strengthen existing elements and incorporate new ideas to address the unique needs of districts in which they work.

Read More Afghanstan Justice Engagement Model (JEM) Practitioner's Guide

Rebuttal: Effective Rule of Law Project Misrepresented

In “Why U.S. Efforts to Promote the Rule of Law in Afghanistan Failed,” Geoffrey Swenson critiques the efficacy of USG justice projects in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Swenson’s description of one project, the USAID Rule of Law Stabilization – Informal Component program (RLS-I) (Swenson uses “RLS-Informal”), results a near wholesale misrepresentation of RLS-I’s objectives, strategies, and impacts, thereby undermining his analysis and missing an opportunity for comparative learning.

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