ADR Paper and Reflections on the Summer

Reflecting on my time at IFES I am so grateful for all the opportunities that I have had to work on different projects over the summer. At the beginning of my internship, I decided to focus my research on the way that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is revolutionizing how election cases are handled. I am part of the ADR team, which is what had originally sparked this interest, but as I look more into its application, I was struck by how effective this tool had been in practice. Throughout the summer I was able to complete case studies on South Africa and other countries that I have previously described in these blogs. These papers focused on ways that ADR has been successful, along with its limitations as an approach.   

In light of the research I had done on this topic I was able to contribute to a forthcoming IFES publication on the use of ADR in election disputes. This publication was built off principles for ADR best practices that were established in the Guidelines for Understanding, Adjudicating, and Resolving Election, also known as GUARDE. This was published with the support of USAID in 2011 and utilized preliminary research on the emerging use of ADR in election disputes. It has been ten years since that original paper was published and there have been a lot of developments on best practices and major principles. IFES’s new paper will offer a more detailed guide on what beneficial application looks like, based on the trial and error that has occurred as ADR has become more popular. 

I was able to write the introduction and first section of this paper. My section described the different models of ADR that are available in the electoral context, as well as the different actors that are involved. I also talked about the rationale that is required, analyzing the pros and cons of implementing ADR. I have talked in-depth about ADR’s rationale in these blogs, but in the paper, I particularly highlight its efficiency. Because time is such an important factor when dealing with elections, ADR has the potential to be very beneficial in handling complaints and dealing with miscommunication. The ability to come to efficient solutions allows justice to be more accessible because fewer resources are required to ensure that the election code of conduct and other regulations are being followed.

Even in just the context of elections, there are multitudes of different disputes that ADR can be involved in. There are so many types of challenges that involve elections, from the code of conduct being broken, the violation of vote rights, to voting count disputes. These challenges also require different levels of checks and balances, so not all these disputes are a good avenue for ADR.

Throughout my research, particularly with different case studies, one of the main things that I noticed was that when the use of ADR is not successful it is often because it is used to cover a dispute that would be better served by a different format. In order to ensure that the use of ADR is beneficial, it must be utilized appropriately. Highlighting the principles that are required for successful application is the overall goal of the paper, so my section concludes by outlining the key elements that are central to the success of this tool.

Working on this paper was such an enjoyable project. It was so helpful to have the opportunity to reflect and highlight all the research that I have completed this summer. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this paper and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of such an important project. It has been such a privilege to be a legal fellow for IFES over the summer and I am so glad that I was able to meet and work with so many incredible people.