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Network Development Contributing to Rule of Law in the Matra RoLT Programme

10 July 2018

In June the fourth and fifth Matra Rule of Law Trainings of 2018, Decentralisation and Citizen Participation (DCP) and Public Finance Management (PFM), came to a close. These two trainings differ in scope and topic. The DCP training focused on bringing decision-making processes closer to citizens and elements contributing to effective inter-administrative relations. Whereas the PFM training focused on taxation systems and state budgets, aiming to increase, inter alia, transparency, efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability.

At the same time, the trainings did have key elements in common. Both had the objective of getting participants to reflect on and assess the situation (in regards to the training’s topic) in their own country. Both programmes also focused on obstacles and dilemmas in the implementation process of the specific topics. Finally, the two trainings had common target groups; namely, civil servants and policy makers in DCP or PFM who are able to offer valuable insights to fellow participants in their respective capacities and are in positions that enable them to implement gained knowledge and insights from the programme.

Despite the broader similarities in target groups, the programme was filled with a wide range of participants from various countries, professional background, and experiences. Similarly, participants varied greatly in their expectations and focus:

  • “I wanted to deepen my knowledge about good international practice and experience with regards to decentralisation processes,” said Kristine Uglava (DCP, Georgia)
Kristine Uglava
  • “I expected to learn (…) how the process on taxation, budgeting, and auditing work,” said Vilson Ukaj (PFM, Kosovo)
Vilson Ukaj

Even within the same training sessions, participants focus on different aspects that are most relevant to their line of work. In the PFM training Svjetlana Vukajlović (Bosnia and Herzegovina) found the “comprehensive insight into management of expenditures” most relevant to her work back home. In contrast, Irbahim Uzunöz (Turkey) found learning about the Dutch Court of Auditor in the PFM training interesting due to its direct relation to his task back home, “carry(ing) out regularity and performance audits.”

Ibrahim Uzunöz

Purposes of the Programme

One of the general objectives of the programme is to spread information on rule of law topics from theoretical experts and seasoned practitioners to civil servants and policy makers. This aims to support the rule of law in the participating countries. Importantly, according to participants, the structure and manner in which the training share information is done so effectively and in a well thought out manner:

  • “There is no doubt the programme is well designed and structured,” said Sergii Chykurlii (DCP, Ukraine)
  • “In general the programme was well organized and structured,” said Vilson Ukaj (PFM, Kosovo)
  • “Everything was very well taught, excellent topics, excellent experts, great time management and of course excellent moderators and organizers as well,” said Vladimir Velichovski (DCP, Macedonia)
Vladimir Velichkovski

[The programme is a] unique opportunity to join the network of highly skilled professionals from different countries. This network is a reliable and convenient tool in mutual beneficial cooperation,…” -Sergii Chykurlii (DCP, Ukraine)

The structure of the programme, with its combination of theoretical knowledge and development of practical skills in the various topics provides participants with broad and solid foundations. It also allows them to take home the information they feel is most relevant and apply it to their own context within their various capacities.

Looking beyond the Training: Network Development 

Looking beyond the training, the programme has another key aspect that helps in strengthening institutional capacity in the field of rule of law: networking. Sifting through past and present feedback from participants full of differing answers on what topics were most interesting for participants and how they plan to use knowledge acquired back in their home country, the desire to network and positive feedback received by the programme for facilitating networking possibilities was nearly ubiquitous.

  • “I wanted to share experience from other countries,” and “I’ve gained friends and this programme was very helful for networking and gaining contacts from participant countries,”­ said Kristine Uglava (DCP, Georgia)
  • “[The programme is a] unique opportunity to join the network of highly skilled professionals from different countries. This network is a reliable and convenient tool in mutual beneficial cooperation, which is quite helpful for our professional endeavours,” said Sergii Chykurlii (DCP, Ukraine)
  • “Sharing the experiences with participants, were useful and beneficial for my professional background. I feel more accomplished and better prepared to discuss and share some of the ideas and lessons on questions raised in my line of work,” said Vilson Ukaj (PFM, Kosovo)

I think the network established during the training is the main strength of the programme. It is a great source of inspiration and information for all of us to deal with challenged related to PFM in our countries,” said Svjetlana Vukajlović (PFM, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Svjetlana Vukajlović

Similarly to the topics taught, the challenges participants face in their own line of work and in their attempts to implement what they have learned in the Netherlands are just as diverse.

  • “Our most challenging task now is improving integrity and anti-corruption culture in judiciary,” said Svjetlana Vukajlović (PFM, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • “In our country we have it (decentralisation and citizen participation measures) on paper, as developed documents, but it is not working in real life,” said Vladimir Velichovski (DCP, Macedonia)
  • “I think most challenging…is strengthening the role of Parliament in the budgetary process…raising the administrative capacity of the staff,” said Vilson Ukaj (PFM, Kosovo)

Despite the variety of challenges and focuses of participants at particular moments in time, that does not mean they will not face similar challenges to their colleagues in the future. This is where the continuous knowledge sharing facilitated by building a network of Matra Rule of Law Training Alumni can be significantly beneficial.

…continuous knowledge sharing facilitated by building a network of Matra Rule of Law Training Alumni can be significantly beneficial.

As the months and years go by, inevitably, the details of the lectures and power points will fade into memory. However, the impressions made through solid foundations of the themes covered and the continuous exchange of experiences and approaches on rule of law issues by civil servants and policy makers in participating and organizing countries have real potential to achieve structural reform. This will require a good network.

This year’s DCP and PFM participants will be invited to next year’s Alumni Day, similar to the Alumni Day in Belgrade and Tblisi organized for the 2017 participants. During the Alumni Day participants will get a chance to reconnect with other participants, a positive step in solidifying the network created through the programme. In addition, they will discuss the status of their back home action plans and any challenges faced in its implementation, giving them an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned and how their actions can work towards the continuous improvement of the rule of law.

Interviewees:

  • Ibrahim Uzunöz (Turkey) is a principal auditor at Turkish Court of Account, carrying out regularity (financial and compliance) and performance audits. He is tasked with the evaluation of the accuracy of public administrative bodies’ financial reports and statements, and whether or not those bodies’ financial decisions and transactions and any programs and activities are compliant with the law.
  • Kristine Uglava (Georgia) works at the Department for Relations with Regions and local Self-government agencies of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia. She drafts legal acts and strategic documents in the field of decentralization and the development of regions and local self-government.
  • Sergii Chykurlii (Ukraine) is Chief consultant of the Department for Local Government and Decentralization of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine. He is actively involved in legal research, drafting legislation, providing legal expertise on the drafts laws and legislation in force related to the area of local self-government, decentralization and local communities’ rights.
  • Svjetlana Vukajlović(Bosnia and Herzegovina) works as Financial Advisor on judiciary reform projects at the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is also the full time mom of an exceptional eight year old boy and in her spare time works on her master thesis.
  • Vilson Ukaj (Kosovo) works in the administration of the Assembly of Republic of Kosovo as a Coordinator of Committee for Budget and Finance. He leads the Support Unit of the Committee, and provides technical and professional support for the chairman and members of the Committee.
  • Vladimir Velichkovski (Macedonia) works at the Center for Development of Pelagonija Planning Region (CDPPR) in Macedonia as Head of the Business Center Department. The department aims to help and support the private sector and strengthen its capacity in the region by identifying needs, offering support measures, and providing proper and timely information.