Welcome to IFES

Hi everyone! Because this is my first blog post I wanted to start with a brief introduction to who I am. My name is Ruth Jones, and I am from a small town in Idaho. For me, there has always been something about knowing everything about everyone around you that has motivated me to travel and explore. Whether that is hiking the Tetons, or going to a new country, I have always been completely captivated by the opportunity to learn something new. 

Even though I have never been to Virginia (shout out to virtual learning) I have been to 15 countries and did a study abroad in Logroño, Spain. My Bachelor’s degree is in international studies, and I got a Master’s in Business Admiration before starting law school. I am currently a rising 2L and I am on the W&M National Trial Team, the ADR Team, the Race, Gender, and Social Justice Journal, and I was the national outreach for ASAP (Alliance for Students at the Polls). 

This summer I am so thrilled to be working as a legal fellow for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. IFES is focusing on building a Democracy for a better future that delivers for all. It was founded in 1987 and is a global, nonpartisan nonprofit organization. Since its founding IFES has worked in more than 145 countries, aiding developing and maturing democracies. As an organization, they work on multiple projects, but all their goals are centralized on four strategic outcomes.

  1. Trusted electoral institutions deliver credible elections
  2. Effective governing institutions are accountable to the people they serve
  3. All people safely participate in civic and political life on an equal basis
  4. Technology, information, and data positively serve elections and democracy. 

IFES is based in Arlington Virginia but currently, their office remains virtual, so I have been working at home from Phoenix Arizona. Because it is an international workplace the virtual environment has allowed me to grow closer to my colleagues that are in other countries because regardless any contact will be over zoom. This has helped me to develop relationships with many amazing people who are working in the field and bring an invaluable perspective. For example, I am currently working on a project with someone who is based and Nepal as well as my advisor who is living in Paris.

I am currently involved in multiple projects, but I started the month of June focusing on researching situations that utilized alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for election disputes. I will upload another post on the specific countries and assignments that I work on, but developing an understanding of the foundation of ADR’s use in elections has been fundamental to all the work that I am doing. Because of this, I wanted to start my blog by sharing some of the insights that I have gained.  

While there are multiple types of ADR, election disputes mainly use mediation and negotiation. Through my research, I found that when it comes to the implementation of ADR in election disputes several threshold questions can be utilized to determine when it is applicable. For example, if fundamental rights are being implicated or if a binding legal precedent is desired it may not be appropriate. However, if there are trusted non-state or state parties that can carry out ADR then its use can save time and money. These often involve disputes where there are questions about ballots, observations of the process, and physical security. 

ADR has multiple benefits, particularly because it can help parties build relationships. If a party sues someone and takes them to court, they will likely destroy that relationship. However, participating in a negotiation with another party can actually strengthen that relationship and create avenues for future dialogue. ADR can also be more accessible, which can enhance its legitimacy. 

There are limitations to ADR’s capability. For example, in negotiation, a win-win is often not possible, and they can end without an agreement. The outcome of negotiations can also be determined by the personalities of the negotiators and be less focused on the needs of the constituents.  

These insights have informed the case studies that I have work on, particularly for Nigeria, which I will detail in my next post. I am really enjoying all the work that I have been able to do so far, and I am excited to share this journey.