Mobile Phones and Customary Law in Afghanistan

I 2006, I was working for USAID in northern Uganda as the 20 year conflict in the region was winding down. While negotiators in Juba were sorting out a lasting peace, our group was convening community leaders from the various regions to discuss tricky disputes around issues like land re-settlement and water supply. This was challenging because northern Uganda is a vast place, and getting leaders from disparate regions together was a logistical nightmare.

Can mobile phones make meaningful dispute resolution more efficient? Paypal's Mobile Phone Jirga, a project supporting the rule of law in Afghanistan, seems to think so.

I'm fascinated by this attempt to build process and code around customary law. The complainant initiates a jirga by recording a voice message, which is delivered to the respondent, who records his own rebuttal. Both arguments are delivered to the jirga elder panel, who hears the case, records their response, and delivers it back to the parties via mobile phone. I'm very curious to hear how this long standing Afghan tradition adapts to this experiment.

HT: Jessica Heinzelman



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