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The Winding Path to Democracy: Reflections on the Final RoLT Alumni Event

27 January 2022

“This is a programme where we learn from each other” – Piet de Klerk, Chair of the NHC Supervisory Board

Our master of ceremony for the Matra Rule of Law Training (RoLT) Alumni Event for the class of 2020 and 2021 was Piet de Klerk, Chairman of NHC’s Supervisory Board. He led the over 80 participants from 11 countries throughout the event. We also welcomed Mauritz Verheijden; Deputy Director for Europe at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as, several Dutch Ambassadors stationed in the participating RoLT countries. Aminata Cairo, motivational speaker and a member of NHC’s Committee – or “NHC’s own think-tank,” as de Klerk referred to it – also joined us with inspirational words as keynote speaker.

After the opening we broke off into breakout rooms according to the training the alumni had followed, be it the Integrity of Civil Servants, Administration of Justice, Human Rights and Minorities, Freedom of Media, Public Finance and Procurement, Decentralisation and Citizen Participation or Detention and Alternative Sanctions-training. The six groups were each led by a member of the NHC, the Hague Academy of Local Governance (THA) or Leiden Law School: the consortium of the Matra RoLT programme.

The event, according to Verheijden, was not merely a moment to converse with the alumni how they had experienced the Matra Rule of Law training, but to also listen to their challenges and hear about the situations in their respective countries. De Klerk added to this that the views of the alumni have been essential in tailoring the online RoLT programme even more to their needs and an actually more interactive programme than the in-person trainings.

Moving Ahead Together

In her keynote speech, Cairo reminded us that:

“Whatever path you are on you are not meant to do it yourself.”

Allies for the road to societal transformation can be found anywhere. Verheijden in particular encouraged everyone to pass by the embassies in their cities. Cairo added to this, “do knock on the doors of the embassies, even if it is for tea and cookies,” emphasising that it does not always have to be about business and networking:

“Sometimes it is about just finding somebody that has your back.”

Despite COVID-19 regulations, many of the alumni shared that they still worked together during trainings and continue to do so while working on the implementation of their action plans.

A process as winding as the river Danube

“Things are going in a good direction, I would be glad if they could go even faster. However, the process is not like the river Danube, which goes straight and it is huge… It is a small river, it goes left, then right, but it goes somewhere, it does what it has to do.” – Aleksandar Marinkovic, RoLT alumnus

Marinkovic said this during the presentation rounds in the working groups on the participants’ Action Plans – having followed the Decentralisation and Citizen Participation-training himself – where participants shared updates on the implementation of their Back Home Action Plans.

Koen Rozemeijer from THA also highlighted Marinkovic’s story in the closing of the event, saying, “I hope that everyone will continue to work towards these goals and head down the river whichever way it may turn.”

Celebrating the little steps in-between was an integral part of the message that Cairo gave us. Through the medium of storytelling, Cairo showed that second attempts are just as important and while it is easier to share our successes, it is equally important to share your hardships. We have to find solace with others and share the burden of our detours as:

“Not everybody’s path is straight forward” – Aminata Cairo, Motivational Speaker, NHC Committee Member

The RoLT network helps in navigating the meandering river and is there for support during the highs and the lows. These lines of support continue long after participation in the programme.  As Rozemeijer eloquently said, it is “over but not really over as relationships continue.” Perhaps most rewardingly, we were thus happy to learn that the participants of the trainings felt the programme had ‘significantly affected their professional development’ with ‘results generated by my team’ coming in close second. Find out what the other results were of the closing survey below: