Mobile Dispute Resolution for Access to Justice in Afghanistan

The Internet Bar Organization has fielded a proposed design, the Internet Silk Road Initiative, that would use online and mobile tech to provide access to justice & dispute resolution capabilities to Afghanistan.

The project’s website is down now, indicating that perhaps the proposal has been shelved right now. But its ambit is of interest:

“The proposed Internet Silk Road project aims to provide a vitally important service to Afghan communities at a time when the need for clearly defined land tenure is a growing concern for both foreign and domestic interests in the country.

Our goal is to resolve Afghan land disputes by

1. investigating the effective and ineffective aspects of the dispute resolution systems currently in use,

2. collecting evidence related to potential disputes helping to create a harmonized e-registry of land and attendant disputes, and

3. creating an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for land disputes that integrates traditional and formal dispute resolution practices to provide disputants a remedy that is accessible, fair and just.

To be judged a success, the project must gain acceptance both by the populace and the central government, in accordance with IBO’s broader mission of promoting effective rule of law through ADR.”

It would use basic technology to let citizens document their sides of dispute and present it for ADR process. The tech could provide a structure and design to the ADR, guiding the citizens through it. It could also supply a way to collect, store, and share evidence that will be useful in deciding the outcome of ADR.

There are more slides for the proposed project from a USIP November 2011 presentation.

Of course, there is no online information about how this system could be implemented with citizens and with the approval-stamp of the government. The inklings of the project provide one prototype (or perhaps, concept design) that could move the ODR for ATJ (Online Dispute Resolution for Access to Justice) idea space forward.

Sheldon Himelfarb wrote a summary of different mobile-based design interventions for improving quality of life and rule of law in Afghanistan, including a short summary of the ‘aspirational program’ of the Online Dispute Resolution system.

He wrote, “Currently, the promise of this program seems to be mainly in capturing land data in digital form through the use of smart phones in order to convert handwritten and woefully inadequate land records into reliable digital repositories. The actual arbitration via mobile phone of the project is decidedly more problematic. Although a great deal of preparatory work has been done, considerable cultural challenges remain, given Afghanistan’s traditional justice system. Most of the Afghanistan rule-of-law experts who were consulted expressed great skepticism about the willingness of local communities to abide by decisions rendered by officials, however impartial, who are remote and unfamiliar to them”

This commentary indicates the cultural and political barriers that may arise to prevent an ODR for ATJ system.

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