Community-Based Dispute Resolution Processes in Kabul City

Community-Based Dispute Resolution Processes in Kabul City

Family and community-based mediation for dispute resolution in Kabul

Traditional dispute resolution in Afghanistan is focused on ensuring local stability through the provision of a careful balance between locally rooted understandings of justice and peace. This paper examines community-based dispute resolution (CBDR) in one neighbourhood of Kabul City to determine the effects of the urban environment on dispute resolution practices.

The author notes that CBDR in Afghanistan is seen as an effective and necessary response to state corruption, incapacity and excessive bureaucracy. Therefore, family- and community-based mediation is the most widely used form of dispute resolution. Yet, the document underlines that disputants can reject enforcement of CBDR decisions, which points to significant gaps in the system as a whole.


Main conclusions include:

  • CBDR processes are heavily influenced by social factors including: exposure to conflict-related violence, shared histories of long-term displacement, diverse and shifting demographics, and changing normative values 
  • state and Islamic law are often used strategically to support the individual rights of disputants, while customary principles generally prioritise cohesiveness within a larger group
  • while CBDR processes may not always and immediately resolve a dispute, they are valued for their ability to regulate or contain disputes that could otherwise erupt into violence
  • community members wish to see improvements in state justice mechanisms as a separate system; this would ensure a viable alternative to CBDR, either in the first instance or as a matter of appeal
  • while women may be constrained relative to their male counterparts, there is space for women to access, participate in, and influence CBDR processes
  • there are times when CBDR decisions do not adhere to the notions of human rights, but this is not a product of the system itself as much as it is a consequence of the prevailing culture

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