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Alternative Dispute Resolution Initiatives in Somalia: The Expanding Access to Justice Program in Somalia (EAJ) (June 2020)

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In Somalia, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is one of several approaches to improve access to justice following the collapse of state institutions and the civil war in 1990-92, both addressing transitional justice and as a supplement to formal statutory justice. The concept, however, is not new.

To the contrary, ADR has been used to describe multiple justice-related processes. In general, ADR comprises processes in which parties settle disputes with the help of third-party mediators or arbitrators, often out of court. In Somalia, it often denotes customary justice processes as alternatives to the fledging statutory court system, involving clan elders and inter-clan agreements (xeer) that stipulate the procedures and framework for dispute settlement, and is also applied to the re-introduction of combatants into communities.1

As Somalia’s statutory system remains in its early recuperation from state collapse, customary justice institutions figure as the first ports of call for the majority of communities as disputes and conflicts arise. In response to this, ADR has been adopted as a supplementary approach to justice by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) since 2014, which is currently taking the form of ‘ADR centers’ operating in several urban centers and under administration by the MoJ.

The Expanding Access to Justice (EAJ) seeks to identify efficient approaches to Access to Justice (A2J) in Somalia in order to build on what is already working and to ensure that all subsequent interventions are context appropriate. The key objective of this study was therefore to increase the understanding of the modalities and impacts of programming and support to ADR initiatives within the delivery of justice in Somalia.2

The report opens with a brief history of ADR initiatives in Somalia and an overview of present activities. Subsequent sections present findings on socio-political dynamics in which ADR initiatives operate, before delving into the technical aspects of case management. The final sections consider the sustainability of structures as well as the impact on vulnerable groups, particularly women, and close with remarks on the implications for shari’ah and human rights in Somalia, the wider trajectory of the customary xeer, and a number of recommendations.

Click here to learn more about the Expanding Access to Justice Program.