The first steps in reforming Nepal's judicial system have been taken in a move regarded as an important part of attempts to end the low-level civil war in the Himalayan country between its royal government and Maoist guerrillas. Nepal's courts have traditionally handled both criminal and civil cases, resulting in management problems and legal complexities that have, in turn, generated large backlogs. The consequent frustrations with the judicial process have been blamed for undermining respect for the law. As a result, in a project backed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 11 district judges have been appointed to four pilot district courts with separate civil and criminal benches. Meanwhile, a second UNDP project is establishing arbitration boards to settle minor disputes at village and municipal levels. It is also helping the Nepal Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliam-entary Affairs reform existing laws and strengthen its capacity to draft legislation and treaties. "The reforms are vital for making the rule of law a reality and building public trust in the legal system," said a UNDP statement.