At the invitation of the World Bank, Université de Montréal's Cyberjustice Laboratory will co-lead a Community of Practice on alternative dispute resolution, with a special focus on computerization, networking and implementation in developing countries. “Establishing a network of mediation centres in countries where state justice systems are no longer able to fulfill their mission would be an example of alternative dispute resolution,” explained Valentin Callipel, Project Manager at the Cyberjustice Laboratory. “Think of a post-conflict situation such as that of Afghanistan, a country where the government's influence hardly extends beyond Kabul.” Under the auspices of the World Bank's Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development, the Community will consist of several international centres of excellence from North and South countries and will focus on implementing concrete projects in developing countries.
The General Secretariat of the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the American Bar Association, the University of the Witwatersrand, the George Washington University School of Law, the Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) of Brazil, and the Korea Development Institute are among the 117 prestigious institutions that will contribute to this international community. Their contributions will be shared online via a knowledge exchange platform developed by the Global Forum and accessible to all.
The Cyberjustice Laboratory, directed by Professor Karim Benyekhlef of the Université de Montréal Faculty of Law, offers research infrastructure that is unique in the world. Its main objective is to put information technology at the service of the judicial system. Driven by a multidisciplinary and international team of 30 researchers, the Laboratory strives to create software tools to facilitate networking of the judicial system and offer concrete and practical solutions to the various problems currently facing justice systems.
The laboratory's first-hand expertise in the field of alternative dispute resolution was behind the invitation to co-lead the Community. "Amicable and less formal methods of conflict resolution, such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, can help avoid the costs, delays, and sometimes institutional weaknesses of traditional courts,” says Valentin Callipel. "The main purpose of these methods is to improve the justice system by extending the available mechanisms for individuals to obtain justice.”
The Community's work will result in the creation of a dozen or so projects. These could include scientific conferences, case studies of a given justice system, or developing software solutions to the problems of courts in India, Brazil, or Kenya. "Today, there are 50,000 cases pending before the Supreme Court of India, of which 20,000 have been on hold for more than five years. There are 4 million cases in the country's superior courts and 27 million in its lower courts. It would be useful to develop other ways of resolving these disputes,” Callipel said.
Once these projects have been determined, the Community will, with the help of the World Bank, seek the involvement of several international donors to ensure implementation. "Access to justice is an essential part of any human or economic development policy,” Professor Benyekhlef said. “At the Cyberjustice Laboratory, we believe that the availability and effective use of new technologies can support the establishment of alternative dispute resolution, which can in turn strengthen justice systems.”
The first meeting of the Practice Community on Alternative Dispute Resolution of the World Bank's Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development will be held before the end of February 2013.
- World Bank's Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development
- Université de Montréal Cyberjustice Laboratory