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 (www.elawyering.org). 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.
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