Inside CILC: legal capacity building as perceived through the eyes of an expert in CILC projects (II)

Strategic choices


Jansen strongly advocates for ministries, NGOs, training institutes and the courts of aid-receiving countries to make an ‘ideal agenda of development aid’. “Currently, it’s common practice that all those planes with experts enter a given country and one says ‘I offer human rights education’ and the other adds ‘I am working on gender issues’ or ‘I do pilot courts’. Then the next one shows up with computers and copy machines.” In her opinion, a recipient country, being the one who is fully aware of what is really needed, should envisage its own long-term agenda for the courts or training institutes. It should draw up a calendar accordingly and upon the arrival of a train or plane with aid workers, the country then only has to consult its ‘ideal calendar’ and say: “Well, we still have not found any funding for the promotion of human rights. If you could provide that for us, that would help us tremendously”. Jansen:

“The country itself ought to select and decide on the type of aid it requires for its development, of course with some help from the donor.”

However, in Jansen’s long experience, she has noticed that aid-receiving countries are often reluctant to act in this way, afraid that the aid workers might leave. “But I don’t think they are planning to leave at all. Great responsiveness from the receiving partners brings the cooperation onto the right level and also guarantees success in the long-term”. As a real promoter of focus and planning, Jansen often considered this practice fascinating.

Constant subtitles


When operating in aid-receiving countries, there is a need for constant local subtitles. Jansen: “Often, when looking through your Western eyes, what you see is not necessarily what is really there. It is all your perception, reflected from a Western reality. Therefore, short-term missions, in which you jump in and quickly spread your message, have certain risks. You should really get to properly understand the culture and stay much longer than usually happens. Cooperation between an experienced local long-termer and short-termers can be a good solution for this.”

Jansen appreciates CILC for its capacity to find and select locals who are very capable and willing to assist the foreign experts by talking and explaining their system. At the same time, CILC also feeds the expert with a lot of background information. “After a few weeks, one already feels deeply immersed in the context.” Another merit of CILC that Jansen mentions is that during projects experts never stay in luxurious oases. “That really gives you the feeling you are there. It certainly helps you to feel the pulse of the country, something which is crucial in order to be able to assist it.”

Understanding the culture and context


The importance of understanding the culture and being briefed about the context and culture in advance is illustrated by Jansen’s first visit to Albania as a (non-CILC) expert in the 1990s. “It was a very poor country at the time. No one had briefed me about the culture. I was giving a presentation to an audience of about 60 people, most likely about the education of the judiciary and the quality of the judiciary. The whole group was watching me with dark, serious faces, shaking their heads for the 45 minutes duration of my talk. The more I tried to be convincing, the more their heads shook. I thought, oh my god, what am I doing this for? Please save me from this! Why do I want to do this?” Afterwards I was informed that in Albania shaking one’s head means ‘yes’. Well, that would have been good to know in advance!”

Jansen believes that cultural anthropologists should play an important role in this line of work. She applauds CILC for using them. “There is such a need for them to explain cultural elements. They can explain things, explain how they work in different cultures. It helps me to focus in my part of the work. I learnt from my project work abroad that anthropologists could also generally play a bigger role in the public debate, not only for the judiciary. When I see all the various debates in the media and all the round tables, I wonder why they aren’t involved in debates about multicultural topics, gender issues, immigration matters and ‘naturalisation programmes’”.

A need to focus and establish a framework of aid for legal capacity building


With her long experience as a legal capacity building expert, Jansen advocates that the Netherlands, in order to strengthen the impact of its capacity building projects for the judiciary, should focus on specific issues and countries. She has often experienced donors, government departments, Ministries of Justice and courts that did not coordinate with each other, creating too much of a patchwork of legal capacity building that was “all very piece meal.” In addition, according to her, there is a need for more constant cooperation and focus on certain countries and topics, an area in which the Dutch judiciary has something to offer.

Jansen: “For example, the Netherlands should at least focus on Indonesia and Suriname, which is where we have our heritage. We have a moral obligation to do so. As for Suriname, there are many links between our two countries and numerous fields in which we could cooperate, such as in facilitating the return of people from Suriname to their homeland. Many Surinamese living in the Netherlands aspire to return eventually. Or family reunification. Or the elderly. We could also further intensify relationships in the field of criminal and family law cooperation, and capacity building for the judiciary. Indonesia would be another example. It still has Dutch legislation. CILC started its work in Indonesia and SSR is currently participating in some projects there.” According to Jansen, other countries with which the Netherlands has strong ties, and with which cooperation should be closer, are Morocco and Turkey. “We have strong ties with these countries and there are so many people originally coming from Morocco and Turkey living here whom we would understand much better if we would work more closely together with them.”


Countries along the borders of the European Union, such as Ukraine, also require an assessment of their challenges and assistance in dealing with them. “Eventually, developments there will be very influential on developments at home and in the EU. You should draw a map and invite all the important key players, both from within the Netherlands and outside, around a table to come together and agree on a commitment. The key players at home would be the judiciary, the legislative, the public prosecution service, the Council of Child Protection, bailiffs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”. According to Jansen, if one engaged in capacity building through a framework involving sufficient key players, the results achieved in certain regions could be expanded. In addition to focusing on a few countries that are important for the Netherlands and the EU, some space should be kept for acute situations. “For me, it’s still surprising that within one cabinet of ministers the focus on projects and countries concerning the topic of justice is so diverse.”

Where rule of law capacity building works


In order to illustrate a CILC project in which rule of law capacity building can be seen at its best, Jansen recalls working with the Rwandan training institute around 2009. Jansen:

“This was truly development work. I was so impressed by the energy of all the people I worked with to rebuild their country, despite all the horrible things that had happened there. They impressed me with what they wanted to achieve and how they worked hard to achieve it.”

Jansen really enjoyed the Rwandans’ critical approach in the project, being very clear about what they did and did not want. She remembered how they came across like the Dutch of Africa: their country was so well organised, even with flower beds, etcetera. “And yet, everyone I spoke to had a terrible genocide story to share. Sometimes they had lost one or two generations.” Afterwards CILC engaged in two or three more broad projects in Rwanda, cooperating with the judiciary, university and police, in which one could move on each time to a next, more advanced phase of development. She adds: “But of course the success of a project all depends on your counterparts and having fertile soil (i.e. enough time for a project to take root) and on receiving excellent support from CILC.”


Another example of how, according to Jansen, legal capacity building should be implemented and can be worthwhile, was a CILC project in Ethiopia, where an assessment of the whole judiciary, public prosecution, police and penitentiary services was carried out. The project involved an international team of experts from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands, something that according to Jansen is very important and offers extra dimensions. At the same time, a complete assessment of the judicial system has also its advantages. “One should not remain too Dutch when working abroad”, Jansen notes. She adds that she could easily write a book about all the different projects in which she has participated, about the difficulties encountered, and of course the highlights of the various forms of cooperation.  Maybe one day, she will do. Currently Jansen prefers to concentrate in her sparsely available time on the fieldwork.

Dutch legal “export products”


When discussing policies in an international context, the Netherlands should focus on its legal capacity building abroad, since the country has top-notch experience to share.

Jansen: “I think we are excellent at training judges and prosecutors and I believe, together with Japan, we have the most elaborate initial training system in the world. The Netherlands has a long tradition in both initial training and permanent education in this field. In addition, our way of organising our courts, court efficiency and management of courts, in which judges are responsible for their organisation and in which we try to treat our cases in a very efficient manner, could be considered export products.”

With regard to court efficiency, the set-up of the organisation, how to manage, cope and deal with the huge amount of cases continually coming in, Jansen shares that her counterparts are often surprised when she tells them that courts are making contracts with the public prosecutors about the number and kind of criminal cases they will handle in a certain year. “Generally, no one thinks in this way. They are mostly reactive and think that, when a case comes in, I have to deal with it, not realising that we at the courts are at the very end of a chain, which is easily navigable and we can plan it in advance.”

Untitled-5In addition, Jansen notes that the Netherlands has an efficient way of financing its courts, which could also be considered an export product. “We use a special model. The budget available to run the court is based on the amount of cases, multiplied by the costs of an average case.” According to Jansen, no other country uses this system and yet within their courts an unending need for monetary resources exists. “We always say we have to prove that we have worked for it, before we can receive any funding. In this way, a court is being stimulated to work as efficiently as possible. The bottom line is that a court will start thinking about how it is organised and will realise that it has to make choices.”

Finally, with regard to media policy, or the interaction between the judiciary and society, something Jansen also considers a Dutch export product, she would like to underline the importance of courts being aware that the judiciary only exists until people do not feel a need for it any longer.

Future role for CILC


According to Jansen, the Dutch government should use CILC as one of the main legal capacity building organisations because it has many ‘unique selling points’ such as its in-depth knowledge of how to deal with legal capacity building projects, both in a quantitative and qualitative way.  “CILC could be considered a real expert in the exploratory phase and in winning tenders and obtaining funding for projects. Its employees are also a bit like diplomats or brokers, bringing all the different stakeholders together: embassies, ministries, judiciary, lawyers, NGO’S, experts”. However, Jansen warns about the dangers of CILC actually becoming engaged in the implementation phase of a project, which should be where other type of experts come in, as long as the right type of experts have been selected. Of course, CILC must remain as the project manager, taking care of good relationship management, general support of the experts, technical support, etc.

Jansen: “Currently one sometimes sees individuals from all kind of positions within the judiciary, in all kind of places, and dealing with all stages of projects in the field of legal capacity building”. However, she warns that one should be fit to perform the job and says she would favour a selection process for the experts.

“One also needs an organisation such as CILC who, together with an embassy or local NGO, is paving the way and preparing the ground. We, the experts and national organisations, do not have the experience and time for that. It is not is the core business of SSR nor of the judiciary. With a charitable organisation like CILC as a partner, you could achieve this. Furthermore, CILC should establish key performance indicators in order for customers to be aware of what they deliver and for what quality and price.”

At the same time, Jansen is fully aware of the difficult task that CILC has in aspiring to change something for the better in its project countries. “Already in the Netherlands, in order to change a part of the culture within the judiciary, it takes a really long time, and that’s while speaking the same language, originating from the same legal system, with the same legislation, and in the possession of sufficient funding and an educational institute. If you would like to achieve a similar thing in a country where you do not speak the language, you come from a different law system and culture, without any finances, and with all kind of political tensions, it is a mega job to achieve a change which also needs time to embed itself.”

Enter and surrender


Jansen emphasises that to function in this type of work as an expert, one should just ‘enter and surrender’. “You should smell and touch it and simply go with the flow. Only then can you be successful. If you approach it with even a slight air of disdain, it will not work out. Counterparts will sense it and will not want to work like that”. She acknowledges that Dutch experts can be a bit ‘clean’, only going to a project country for three days, not an hour more, whereas it might take at least three weeks to even gain some sort of trust with local counterparts, for them to figure out what the experts are coming to bring them, and to gain the confidence that they might be able to understand them and their context a little bit.”

Jansen notes that, by inviting her to participate in its projects, CILC has really given her a gift. “To me, it’s very enriching. I am always very grateful to the participants in each project because I often feel that I have learned much more from exploring their context than what the recipients might have gained from the project. During the duration of a project, you are also constantly considering your own system and your own expertise as a judge”.



Jansen truly believes in the underlying value of legal capacity building. “I really believe in the usefulness of these projects. I truly believe that something will always remain afterwards. Even if it’s really small, it is of value. It’s like that single stone you move in the river, it’s never for nothing. However, this is something that you need to keep on convincing donors and existing organisations in the Netherlands of. What CILC adds is actually very important”.


Interview by Marjolein C. Groot, 1 June 2015
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