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Resilience and Dedication: The Matra Rule of Law Training Alumni Event 2021

23 June 2021

Developments in the world show us that we cannot take the Rule of Law for granted – Pepijn Gerrits, Executive Director Netherlands Helsinki Committee

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly changed the way we live and work. The Netherlands Helsinki Committee’s (NHC) Matra Rule of Law training (RoLT) programme was no exception, and it moved to a fully online environment during the course of 2020, for making the second group of the 2019 RoLT Alumni the last cohort to follow in-person trainings. Over 80 participants met for a virtual Alumni Event on June 1st, exchanging memories and experiences as well as a presenting the progress made on the implementation of their Back Home Action Plans (BHAPs), devised during their training. The NHC, co-organised the day with Matra RoLT partners, Leiden Law School and The Hague Academy for Local Governance.

Work on the Rule of Law is never finished – Mauritz Verheijden, Deputy Director for Europe at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Maatschappelijke Transformatie’ (Matra), meaning ‘societal transformation’ in Dutch, as Verheijden shared with us, is the aim of the Rule of Law programme devised by the Europe department of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is evident in the main aim of RoLT; to strengthen institutional capacity and to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to participants to drive reforms in their home countries. The BHAPs created during the trainings to drive these reforms, are an essential part of the RoLT programme, and the progress was presented later in the day. Verheijden’s opening talk was followed by a short welcoming video by the 10 Ambassadors of the participating Matra Rule of Law Training countries (Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine). An inspiring keynote by speaker, scholar,  storyteller and NHC Committee Member Aminata Cairo followed after. Cairo managed to create the first RoLT choir, inviting everyone to join in for a song to celebrate coming together on this special occasion.

After the opening of the event, participants entered breakout rooms according to the training they had followed: Public Finance Management, Public Procurement, Detention and Alternative Sanctions and Decentralisation and Citizen Participation. In these groups, participants shared everything from survival techniques for Zoom faults, to fond memories of the last in-person Rule of Law training. Alumni also shared some of the extreme hardships that they had to overcome both in their personal as well as professional lives. The resilience shown in the work of the alumni during COVID-19 was incredibly impressive, especially with regard to getting their BHAPs off the ground. This became clear from the presentations where alumni shared the successes and limitations of implementing their Action Plans after returning to their home countries.

The Keyword was Resilience

The closing remarks by course leader Professor Rick Lawson (Public Finance Management) were that on a “professional level, the key word was resilience,” and that it was clear from the presentations that a lot was achieved over the last year. Course leader Koen Rozemeijer (Decentralisation of Citizen Participation) of The Hague Academy of Local Governance, outlined his hopes that the participants “think back on the things they learnt from your fellow participants when running into issues in their professional work” and hoped that everyone would continue using the alumni-network. NHC’s Executive Director Pepijn Gerrits reiterated these final sentiments and emphasised how encouraging it was to catch up on everyone’s progress and foremost wellbeing.

Stay Tuned!

We will be following up on this RoLT Alumni Event with a number of interviews from RoLT Alumni. Stay tuned to hear more from the participants themselves about the implementation and progress made of their Back Home Action Plans.

The Matra Rule of Law Training Programme is designed and delivered by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Leiden Law School and The Hague Academy for Local Governance. It is financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, for a period of five years (2017- 2021). For questions relating to the Matra Rule of Law Training Programme or application process, please email: