Internet Silk Road Initiative

Internet Silk Road Initiative

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our goal is to resolve Afghan land disputes by 1. investigating the effective and ineffective aspects of current dispute resolution systems, 2. collecting evidence on potential disputes to create a harmonized e-registry of land and attendant disputes, and 3. creating an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for land disputes that integrates traditional and formal dispute resolution practices.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Land in Afghanistan has long been a source of conflict, replete with conflicting central governmental policies, varied levels of local enforcement, corruption, ethnic and gender tensions, and poor record keeping. Numerous efforts have been implemented over the years to perform comprehensive and definitive surveys of the country with mixed, and always incomplete, results. Deeply ingrained mistrust of the central government, both in executive and judicial form, has further complicated attempts both at land registry and the resolution of land disputes. The weaknesses of the central Afghan government, alongside the breakdown of traditional dispute solutions has exposed a growing need for initiatives like Internet Silk Road that draw on both local, informal practices and federal, formal ones. Similar projects have seen marked success at garnering community support, when both judges and Jirgas have been unable to provide answers. We believe that the Internet Silk Road project can greatly improve on previous attempts at alternative resolution of Afghan land disputes, and make a great stride in establishing community support for the rule of law.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our project is unique in several ways. Firstly we are using new technologies to streamline evidence gathering and reporting of land dispute resolution mechanisms, both formal and informal, first in three pilot districts and then scalable across Afghanistan. Once evidence is gathered, ISR will 'map' these dispute resolution mechanisms in an online geographic map to enhance understanding of how land disputes are (or are not) resolved currently. We will then work to create an alternative dispute resolution mechanism based on our mapping, that combines the support of the judiciary with the efficiency and community trust of local informal justice mechanisms. By digitizing the evidence gathering process, the record of the resolution proceedings, and the outcomes, this system can be directly integrated into a central online deed registry. Our hope is that the success of the Internet Silk Road will establish a reliable model of alternative dispute resolution that can advance the rule of law without further burdening the overtaxed judiciary, while providing a valuable solution to immediate problems faced by Afghan communities.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Land disputes constitute a large part of civil conflicts in Afghanistan (around 80%) and often lead to violence between disputants, especially in rural parts of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, land registry is still rife with corruption, violence, and competing claims. For example, in rural areas local elders often require a 30% fee to sign a title after a land transaction. These signatures are required for the state to register the land, but there is no guarantee that the transaction will subsequently be recognized. When disputes inevitably arise, the courts are backlogged to the point that it takes months, sometimes years to process claims, while suspicion of the formal judiciary and lack of regional security mean that verdicts may not be accepted or enforced. Traditional jirga, shura, and other informal systems have long been accepted as forms of local dispute resolution but are in many ways unsustainable as the primary recourse in land disputes if meaningful rule of law is to be established. The councils are often made up of illiterate, entirely male, tribal elders, operating on cultural codes of equity that may directly conflict with governing Afghan law. These councils are also vulnerable to being strong-armed by local warlords and have become increasingly plagued by corruption and corresponding social distrust. Both formal and informal justice systems have also largely ignored the significant land interests held by Afghan women, interests that have grown through inheritance after three decades of war.
About You
Internet Bar Organization
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Internet Bar

Last Name



, MA, Suffolk County

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Internet Bar Organization

Organization Phone


Organization Address

365 Boston Post Road, Suite 135, Sudbury MA 01776

Organization Country

, MA

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

Do you have a patent for this idea?


The ISR Project is a multi-step project focused on improving the capacity of dispute resolution by linking the resources of the formal justice sector and the trust of traditional structures. Our Pilot Project will focus on a limited number of districts within one region, training and providing simple tools to local service providers in order to establish a dynamic, online map that documents the following:

-A typology of locally trusted governance mechanisms
-The volume and typology of disputes processed by each provider
-The procedural and substantive distinctions between local systems
-The approximate jurisdiction and relational proximity of local mechanisms

The ISR Pilot Project will establish the methodology and tools to map dispute resolution processes in Afghanistan, and be able to scale rapidly to cover additional domestic and international contexts and international contexts. Additionally, the ISR Project will provide Pilot participants an opportunity to serve as skilled trainers throughout scaling efforts. The ISR Pilot Project is the first step in rebuilding the rule of law in Afghanistan, from the bottom up.


• “Legal map” of Afghan land norms created and available for general use in academics and land research, as well as for use in our needs assessment, leading to creation of alternative dispute resolution mechanism incorporating informal and formal land norms
• Urgent legal problems, local strategies to cope with these, strengths and weaknesses of local mechanisms identified.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

We aim to work with the Afghan Bar Association and the Afghan judiciary to propose a reform of the formal legal structures around land registry and dispute resolution on a federal level. Such policy advocacy will work hand-in-hand with and build upon our research into the most effective formal and informal dispute resolution mechanisms currently in use in Afghanistan.

What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

ISR is currently partnering with several non-profit partners to construct our pilot projects: Frontline SMS Legal (technology implementers) and the University of Tilburg (mediation and dispute resolution experts). Local Afghan partnerships are also essential to ISR's success. ISR will partner with local NGOs, local judiciary (through the Afghan Bar) and local and provisional governments to roll out the land ADR mechanism. For example, once the legal mapping and dispute resolution mechanisms have been successfully implemented in their pilot phases, the project will be handed over to the Afghan government’s Land Authority and, assuming successful partnership with the National Solidarity Programme, implementation will be continued through community-level training and participation through this organization.

The Afghan government may fund the registration system with tax revenues or through charging registration fees. A portion of registration fees may go towards a pool for land dispute resolution; and dispute resolution may be accompanied by its own nominal fees.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Our Internet Silk Road Initiative is to be funded by foundation grants.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The Internet Bar Organization (IBO) is global non-profit organization founded in 2005 to further the rule of law and promote peace through projects encouraging access to education, technology, and poverty alleviation. IBO grounds its work in the effective use of technology and communication to streamline and expand the capabilities of developing communities. IBO has previously used its ability to harness technology with successful micro-commerce justice and development initiatives in several countries, including Sierra Leone, Haiti, Ghana, and Brazil. The Internet Silk Road project has been developed as an initiative to establish functional land dispute resolution mechanisms in Afghanistan.

The history of land tenure in Afghanistan is long and convoluted. Years of conflict, internal migration and displacement, and culturally unique land use have frustrated attempts at cohesive land registry. Improvement of the dysfunctional status quo will require significant support as millions of internationally displaced Afghans return to their homeland, some 1.7 million returning from Pakistan alone. As Afghanistan transforms from political and economic insecurity, establishing effective rule of law regarding land tenure will be a significant piece of the development puzzle.

Today, the situation has seen notable improvements but remains deeply flawed. Beginning in 2003, the USAID Land Titling and Economic Restructuring Activity (LTERA) program undertook a significant effort to survey land, electronically register deeds, and create a comprehensive land administration that was adopted by President Hamid Karzai in October, 2009. Unfortunately, land registry is still rife with corruption, violence, and competing claims. For example, in rural areas local elders often require a 30% fee to sign a title after a land transaction. These signatures are required for the state to register the land, but there is no guarantee that the transaction will subsequently be recognized. When disputes inevitably arise, the courts are backlogged to the point that it takes months, sometimes years to process claims, while suspicion of the formal judiciary and lack of regional security mean that verdicts may not be accepted or enforced.

Working with local implementation partners, the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) has, with some success, introduced pilot projects aimed at creating a workable and respected dispute resolution mechanism under the aegis of the provincial-level executive branch, but endemic registry issues and failure to involve the judiciary threaten the fundamental efficacy of the model. At present, the system continues to be dogged by ineffective dispute resolution at both the formal and informal level, a gap that any successful project working to address these problems must bridge. Effective documentation and record keeping, both before and after dispute resolution takes place, must be implemented to ensure that successes can be built upon, instead of being turned under by subsequent shifts in policy and implementation.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Jeffrey M. Aresty, Esq., has been involved in international business law and the role of technology in the transformation of the practice of law for almost three decades. He is currently Chair of the International Services, Technology and Data Protection Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law and has been actively involved in other capacities for the American Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Mr. Aresty initiated and directed the “Computer College” Program (1983-87) that assisted lawyers in bringing computers into the practice of law and he co-founded the ABA’s TECHShow in 1987. He has co-edited two books on cross cultural influence in international business and e-commerce for the AGA, including The ABA Guide to International Business Negotiations. In his position as the Reporter of ABA’s e-lawyering Task Force ( Mr. Aresty wrote several articles on the technical, legal and practical implications of the practice of law in cyberspace.

Mr. Aresty spent two years traveling between Taiwan, China, and the U.S. from 1989 to 1991 exploring the business opportunities for U.S. businesses in the Far East. He lobbied the Massachusetts legislature as a part of his international banking master’s thesis to establish a development bank funded by Chinese investors to transfer US technology to the Far East and to establish the necessary intellectual property protections required or extensive technology transfer.

Mr. Aresty also has an extensive background in negotiating and structuring international joint venture relationships; establishing direct and indirect sales, marketing and manufacturing operations in Europe, South America and the Far East; and negotiating and structuring licensing, sales, service, and other agreements necessary to transfer technology, staff foreign operations, market products and services and, if necessary to resolve disputes. Mr. Aresty is the editor of The ABA Guide to International Business Negotiations, the premier legal text on the subject, with an accompanying CD-ROM soon to be released.

He received his law degree from Boston University (1976), his masters of laws degrees in taxation (1979) and international banking (1993) from Boston University, and has recently completed training as an international commercial arbitrator. He is licensed to practice law in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

Our Internet Silk Road Initiative aims to strengthen property rights and tenure security by increasing access to land dispute resolution options for Afghans.