Building Peace Locally is a collection of initiatives that reflects CPAU’s commitment and mission to develop a capacity for conflict resolution through a participatory approach that encourages community engagement, builds trust and can transform conflict issues by developing structures and mechanisms that allow for the peaceful resolution of disputes.
The Need for Intervention
Key to understanding the contextual need for peace building, is the fact that upwards of 80% of the Afghan population, particularly those who live away from the main population centre’sin rural environments have no access, or very limited access, to the formal justice system. There is a long and deep history of semi-autonomous administration in many areas, often based on Koranic Sharia Law. After three decades of war, the community structures and knowledge base this informal system rested on has been severely weakened, and knowledge of issues such as Human or Women’s rights, are in many instances scant if present at all. As part of the rebuilding process in Afghanistan it was widely recognized that there was a strong need for a formal, centralized legal system, but also that this centralized ‘new’ system would have to work with the older informal system. CPAU has been instrumental in working to rebuild the informal justice system, develop expertise and provide legal training, and working to promote linkages and cooperation with the formal law courts.
One of the key works CPAU undertakes is establishing what are known as peacecouncils. Peace councils are based on thetraditional justice system of village elders gathering in community councils called “Jirgas” or “Shuras” to mediate disputes between parties. Jirgas originate from traditional Pashtun culture and they are usually a temporary or ad-hoc group of respected elders that convenes when necessary to resolve disputes. A Shura is a group of local elders or recognized leaders who convene regularly to make decisions on behalf of their community. CPAU trains the members of these peacecouncils in conflict negotiation and mediation to increase their effectiveness at dispute resolution. At the same time these training sessions encourage the Peace Councils to record their cases in notebooks specifically designed for that purpose and which are distributed by CPAU; the benefit of case registration by peace councils includes that CPAU has systematic access to data concerning community level disputes. We utilize these recordsto generate Local Conflict Trend Analysis Papers (LoCTAPs), and to develop greater insights into local conflict dynamics, threats and opportunities.
CPAU is active in establishing peacecouncils in villages and communities where none previously existed, and providing those communities with training and support to help resolve conflict issues that might otherwise have descended into violence. It is precisely this resort to conflict that CPAU works tirelessly to end as its negative effects, and the wider lack of respect for the rule of law, undermine Afghanistan’s ability to rebuild and develop. CPAU, through its network of regional offices throughout Afghanistan, is able to publicize the intended formation of Peace Councils, and generate interest and participation in communities. We provide five days of workshops and training for all Peace Council members, and instill in them an understanding of how conflict arises, how to mediate between parties, how to negotiate and listen, and most importantly, why a peaceful non-violent outcome is preferable, why conciliation is vital.
Where we work
CPAU Peace trainers later visit and observe Peace Council meetings to assess how Councils are using conflict resolution skills to solve disputes brought before them. These visits help trainers to evaluate the Peace Council’s decision-making processes, and allow them to evaluate on how future Councils and training sessions can be improved. CPAU has so far established Peace Councils in six provinces, with work already underway to expand into new areas. We have Peace Councils active in the following provinces, with the number of councils given in brackets:
- Kunduz province (75)
- Takhar province (45)
- Baghlan province (40)
- Faryab province (20)
- Kabul province (30)
- Kapisa province (60)
Peacecouncil Work and Justice Support Workers
CPAU peacecouncils work on both criminal cases involving violence, as well as civil disputes surrounding land ownership, inheritance disputes and property claims.The decisions of Councils, though often accepted, are not final and both parties have the right to seek redress in the formal justice system through the courts. Where individuals engage with the formal justice systemwe provide assistance through Justice Support Workers (JSW) –individuals fully trained in either formal or Sharia Law. Justice Support Workers can assist councils, claimants or defendants with legal issues and provide clarification on points of law. By working with local Imams and with the Justice Support Workers, the Councils are able to increase the acceptance of their verdicts and their authority, and decisions are often read aloud in Mosques and other public places. Achieving this level of acceptance is vital, and it allows CPAU and the peacecouncils to operate in areas with greater security risks, and by establishing a respected authority, minimizes the likelihood of individuals seeking extrajudicial redress
For examples of cases successfully mediated and resolved by CPAU peace councils, please see some of the testimonies and case reports we have gathered, they can be found here
CPAU’s Creative Animation and Peace Education
As part of CPAU’s interventions to address local conflicts and improve community capability to resolve conflicts in a non-violent non-discriminatory way, CPAU delivers “Peace Education” from grade 1-12 in Afghan schools. CPAU Peace Education Programme promotes a culture of peace, reconciliation and peaceful conflict resolution amongst elementary, secondary and high school children, their teachers and parents. Through using teaching and training materials grounded in the socio-cultural reality of Afghanistan this programme generates a sense of shared responsibility amongst youth for constructive transformation of conflicts, to prevent violence, to encourage individuals and communities to deal with violence proactively, and ultimately build a sustainable peace at the local level.
As an important creative component of the programme, CPAU encourages new ways for the students to communicate with each other and with outside world. Using animation, students find new creative ways to achieve that. Not only improved communication but also improved knowledge on the use of new technologies and wider access is achieved through this activity.