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Cordaid NL
Afghanistan South Sudan

Support for research into dispute resolution

The Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, governance and development of the Universiteit Leiden and Cordaid have received support from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to fund research into local dispute resolution in fragile and conflict-ridden states.

The funding is for a two-year research project titled ‘Supporting Primary Justice in Insecure Contexts: South Sudan and Afghanistan’.

South Sudan and Afghanistan are worlds apart, but they share many of the basic configurations which make security and justice hard to attain.

They are poor countries with a history of foreign occupation and distrust of the state, a complex ethnic make-up, persistent violent conflict, powerful local strongmen, weak state institutions.

In these insecure contexts, violations of property rights have increased while access to justice deteriorated – especially for women. Locally, disputes are often brought before chiefs, elders, and police officers.

This research will map:

  • people’s concerns and conceptions of justice, notably with regard to dispossession and other property conflicts;
  • the responses and remedies provided, in particular to women, through community-based, state-based, and other (e.g. religion-based or militia-based) mechanisms and practices;
  • the potential of synthesizing ‘elements that work‘ into projects aimed at strengthening ‘pathways of primary justice’.

Cordaid strives to use the knowledge and tools gained in this project to further strengthen its programming and to aid people in their pursuit of justice by peaceful means.

Cordaid in Afghanistan and South Sudan

Through its long history of working in Afghanistan and South Sudan, Cordaid has built an elaborate network and developed extensive knowledge of the local contexts. The aid organization aspires to use the outcomes of this research to strengthen its programs and to further assist people in resolving their disputes in nonviolent ways.

By uniting the academic world with development practitioners, this research project aspires to contribute to better aid that is informed both by local and international knowledge.


This research proposal has been prepared by the VVI and Cordaid under the direction of Jan Michiel Otto. The consortium that will implement this research project consists of VVI and Cordaid, and local Cordaid-partners The Liaison Office (Afghanistan), the Justice and Peace Commissions (South Sudan), and the University of Juba (South Sudan). The project will officially commence on 1 October 2014, and last until March 2016.

The two organizations met in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Knowledge Platform ‘Security and Rule of Law’. The NWO-funding is part of a research agenda called ‘Embedding Justice in Power and Politics’, which contributes to innovations for people-centered and context sensitive rule of law reform programs in fragile and conflict-affected countries.