Category Archives: South Asia

Bridging the Gap in Access to Justice: Lessons learned from Afghanistan’s Paktika Province

Disputes over property, such as land and cattle, and other matters are still settled by tribal leaders in many parts of Afghanistan. Huquq activities in Paktika may serve as a model for other communities and pave the way to a more formalized system of justice.

Despite substantial efforts by coalition forces and international donors to strengthen Afghanistan’s formal justice sector, many Afghans remain unaware or highly suspicious of the formal system. The system is considered highly corrupt, with decisions often made in the favor of the highest bidder. In contrast, public trust in informal justice mechanisms, primarily in traditional dispute resolution (TDR), remains high, according to a recent Asia Foundation report entitled “Afghanistan in 2017: A Survey of the Afghan People.” Afghans continue to prefer that tribal elders and local shuras (Arabic for religious councils) settle local disputes. Without improving access to more formalized justice systems or addressing the fragile state of legal reform, stabilization initiatives aimed at reviving the country’s economy will continue to have limited impact. Rather than create new parallel justice systems, often viewed as foreign and imposing, efforts to support and reform existing institutions have a far better chance of being locally accepted, effective, and sustainable.

Residents of Paktika Province are among those who continue to rely on traditional mechanisms to resolve disputes, primarily in the form of mediation shuras led by local tribal elders. Based on my experience in Afghanistan, Paktika provides an interesting case study regarding possible paths to strengthen the nation’s formal justice system. Unlike in other areas of war-torn Afghanistan, Paktika’s tribal system of governance has remained relatively intact, and ordinary citizens continue to resolve conflicts through locally accepted and readily available TDR. Understanding and regular use of the formal justice system by citizens of Paktika is likely, at least, a generation away. However, there is a way to begin closing the gap between the informal and formal systems. The key to improving the country’s justice system is finding the middle ground between the informal and formal systems and to begin knitting together the two systems. The Department of Huquq, which falls under Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice, is the place to begin.

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Will a Federal Form of Government Succeed in South Asia’s Newest Democracy?

A fruit vendor in a bazaar in Palpa, Nepal weighs Nepal-grown suntala, a citrus fruit similar to a mandarin orange. Photo by Jennifer Anderson.

On November 26, millions of Nepalis peacefully voted in the country’s first general election since the end of the Maoist civil war and the end of the Monarchy. In the first phase of a two-phase election, Nepalis voted to elect 275 members to the House of Representatives and, historically, to elect representatives to the newly created seven provincial assemblies. The second phase will conclude on December 7, 2017. This is a critical moment in Nepal’s democratic consolidation. More than a decade ago, Nepal’s political parties agreed to change the country’s unitary system of government to a federal system. After years of political discord and bureaucratic stasis, Nepal’s Constituent Assembly successfully passed its new constitution in September 2015, which mandates a federal form of governance. Now, Nepal must follow through on establishing three tiers of government: Federal, provincial, and local. For democracy to succeed, the country’s leaders must deliver on the provisions of the Constitution, including federalization.

A fruit vendor in Tansen, the capital of Palpa district, Nepal. How will federalism improve life for marginalized communities and necessity entrepreneurs? Photo by Jennifer Anderson.

The demand for federalism was initially inspired by popular objections to the undue concentration of economic and political power among a small group of high-caste political elites in Kathmandu, the capital. Moreover, in-fighting among these centralized elites stunted economic reform efforts and fed a corrupt patronage network. Since democracy’s reinstatement in 2008, Nepal has rotated through a merry-go-round of 10 prime ministers and remained trapped in a low-growth, high-migration scenario. Many Nepalis—including historically marginalized communities like the Dalits, Madhesis, and Janajatis—hope federalism will give them a greater voice in policymaking and public governance. The remaking of Nepal into a functioning federal country that meets diverse sets of needs will prove to its citizens that democracy delivers.

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Democracy that Delivers #94: Manizha Wafeq on Trailblazing the Creation of Afghanistan’s First Women’s Chamber of Commerce

From left: podcast guest Manizha Wafeq, guest host Jennifer Anderson and host Ken Jaques

Manizha Wafeq, a founder of the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI), discusses the groundbreaking formation of the country’s first women’s chamber of commerce.

In 2014, a group of Afghan businesswomen, known as the Leading Entrepreneurs for Afghanistan’s Development (LEAD), arranged to meet with the country’s first lady and High Economic Council. The businesswomen appealed to the country’s powerbrokers to allow them to formally change their group’s name to the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and they asked to be recognized as the country’s first official women’s chamber of commerce.

Three years later, on March 12, 2017, the group received official permission to changed its name and register with the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries. In this week’s podcast, Wafeq describes the arduous process and the significance of the milestone name change.

Despite working in the formal sector and creating jobs for the country, Wafeq explains that AWCCI is still needed because of the onerous hurdles Afghan businesswomen face. These obstacles include social and cultural barriers and limited access to markets and finance.

For more information on their accomplishments and news, visit AWCCI’s website. Watch our latest video learn more about CIPE’s partnership with other women’s chambers in South Asia.

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Democracy that Delivers #93: Rezani Aziz on Women Entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka

From left: podcast guest Rezani Aziz, with hosts Pamela Kelley Lauder and Ken Jaques

In 1988, Rezani Aziz joined the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Sri Lanka to network with other business women. Almost three decades later, she’s now the founder of the Federation of Women Entrepreneur Associations in Sri Lanka (FWEASL) and CEO of Adfactors PR. In this week’s podcast, Aziz shares the changes she’s witnessed and helped foster for women entrepreneurs from 1988 to today.

Aziz founded FWEASL to give women a voice and provide them with the know-how to become entrepreneurs. She says some of the biggest hurdles involve access to finance and job opportunities. Approximately 37 percent of Sri Lankan women are unemployed. FWEASL is developing programs to help women gain confidence to enter the workforce and the business world. Projects include training on how to request bank loans and advocacy for changes in labor laws. Aziz attributes much of the organization’s success to its partnership with CIPE and sister organizations in the region.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #87: Imtiaz Gul on the Role of Civil Society and the Private Sector in Pakistan

From left: podcast guest Imtiaz Gul, guest host Vivek Shivaram and host Pamela Kelley Lauder

This week’s podcast guest is Imtiaz Gul, founder and executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), a Pakistan-based think tank.

In the podcast, Gul discusses the role that the business community and civil society can play in reducing extremism in South Asia. If disenfranchised people gain access to more job opportunities, they have less incentive to join extremist groups, he explains.

Because Pakistan’s ruling elites are preoccupied with maintaining power and status, they often settle for short-term economic solutions and exclude civil society and the private sector from economic decisions. This leads to stunted economic and political growth for the country.

CRSS has partnered with CIPE to create an open dialogue between the Pakistani Parliament and civil society and private sector.

Visit crss.pk, for more information about the think tank.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #81: Vaqar Ahmed on Growth in Pakistan’s Private Sector

From left: podcast guest Vaqar Ahmed and guest hosts Maria Philip and Vivek Shivaram

This week’s guest on CIPE’s Democracy that Delivers podcast is Vaqar Ahmed, Ph.D. Ahmed is deputy executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

In this podcast, Ahmed discusses CIPE’s partnership with SDPI, the growth of Pakistan’s economy, and the country’s need for a thriving private sector. After a decade of low gross domestic product (GDP) growth, Pakistan’s economy has begun to improve. The private sector will play a key role in the country’s economic turnaround, and a free, transparent market is necessary for the private sector to flourish.

SDPI’s main aim is to provide a sustainable development community in Pakistan by addressing such issues as climate change, food security and tax reform. With CIPE’s support, SDPI has developed economic programs that have received support from members of the Pakistani parliament.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #80: Manzoor Ahmad on Economic and Infrastructure Growth in Pakistan

From left: podcast guest Manzoor Ahmad, guest hosts Frank Brown and Jennifer Anderson

This week on CIPE’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Manzoor Ahmad, Ph.D., discusses economic and infrastructure growth in Pakistan. Ahmad is president of the PRIME Institute and a senior fellow with the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva.

CIPE and PRIME collaborated to create the Government Policy Scorecard, which is intended to hold the Pakistani government accountable for economic promises made to its citizens. Ahmad says the project has been a success because it has opened the door for dialogue between the Pakistani government and PRIME Institute.

Ahmad also discusses the positive effects of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which took effect in February 2017 Ahmad credits the TFA with facilitating exports and expediting trade in developing countries, such as Pakistan.

Finally, in regards to infrastructure, Ahmad says Pakistan has benefited since the 2016 implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is intended to strengthen Pakistan’s economy by modernizing its infrastructure.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on your Android device.

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes.