Tag: conflict resolution
Rule of Law is coming back (?)
This piece was written in 2012. I did not publish it thinking it will be outdated in couple of months. Sadly, I was mistaken.
Aside from policy implications, the turn of events impacts projects’ implementation in development context. A few reflections, worth revisiting.
Rule of Law is coming back: how to make it sustainable (original title)
On the eve of EU-Moldova association negotiations, the Rule of Law is back to the forefront of regional EU politics and Moldova’s reformist aspirations. After eight years of semi-autocratic governance, which culminated with an outburst of many defective governance symptoms, including law enforcement abuses (George Dura and Elena Gnedina, Moldova’s ‘wannabe democracy’ is worth rescuing, CEPS Policy, Brief No. 185, April 2009), the EU message on good governance to Moldova seems to find a fertile soil, welcomed with encouragement both internally and externally.
“Am I the only economist guilty of using the term [rule of law] without having a good fix of what it really means” asks Dany Rodrick of Harvard University. “Well, maybe the first one to confess it” (The Economist, Economics and the rule of law, Order in the Jungle Mar 13th 2008). Many political leaders and rule-makers in this part of the world ought to confess to the same. Rule of Law is not an abstract concept or a lifeless slogan in a discourse and further more it’s not only a political or legal matter.
Rule of Law is meant to be the heart-piece of any form of human organization. It’s the ultimate check against which decisions shall be made and governance measures approved. This paper is complementary to all “rule of law matters” arguments (Daniel Kaufman, Aart Kray and Massimo Mastruzzi, Governance Matters IV, the World Bank) and the debate around the link between the Rule of Law and development, with a dedicated focus on how to make it sustainable in a context of wondering democracies such as Moldova’s.
The objectives of this article are to (i) reiterate the importance of Rule of Law in an evolving country and regional context and (ii) provide rule makers with a sustainability strategy towards a Rule of Law governance system in evolution.
This article is addressed to national decision-makers, as well as sponsors and project manages of Rule of Law initiatives and programmes to help them prepare for a better, prosperous and just future of a nation’s development.
1.Why Rule of Law matters: a necessary reiteration
Recent history triggered by the Fall of the Berlin Wall and in particular Central and Eastern European countries adherence to the EU model of Rule of Law provide many inestimable paradigms and lessons learned. In the meantime, regional and local circumstances have changed, new factors interceded and unforeseen challenges creped up. These changing paradigms and trends require acknowledgement in order to prepare for the future of a Rule of Law country. This is the role of experts and advisors to those in power, the mission of whom is to make educated forecasts about the changing nature of Rule of Law paradigms, without falling into the trap of wishful thinking, presumed history’s repetition – the Berlin Wall will not fall again – and fruitless discourses on benefits of Rule of Law. One of first and most valuable lessons-learned in changing regional paradigms is the that Rule of Law is first of all a national project, the success of which will lead to benefits that come with development and, as a positive desired side-effect, may lead to a win-win result in the Eastern Partnership (Nicu Popescu, Re-setting the Eastern Partnership in Moldova, CEPS Policy Brief, No. 199/4 November 2009) and eventually to a long-term but firm EU integration agenda.
The debate around the link between Rule of Law and countries’ development is hardly new. Some argue that understanding and promoting Rule of Law is cornerstone to development (See for example World Bank, World Development Report 2006: Equity and Development,Washington, DC: World Bank, 2005. EU-Central Asia Ministerial Conference, “Rule of Law – Cornerstone of Development”, Brussels, 28 November 2008, 16513/08 (Presse 350)). Others find that “as the high correlation between government indicators and the level of economic development suggests, the weakness of the institutional infrastructure might be due to the low level of per capita income. Once the income levels of countries increase there could be also convergence of the governance indicators” (The Economics of Enlargement – Presentation of a special issue of the Rivista di Politica Economica in Economic Policy, Daniel Gros, Director CEPS, Fabrizio Coricelli, University of Siena, Adviser, DG ECFIN, European Commission, Tito Boeri, Bocconi University, Director Rodolfo De Benedetti Foundation, Date: 14 November 2000).
Either way one looks at it, Rule of Law and sustainable development go hand in hand. Economic growth, political modernisation and the ability to attract foreign investment hinges to a great extent on strengthening Rule of Law in transitional states. Rule of Law may not automatically lead to higher levels of per capita income or increased foreign direct investments or an immediate solution to the break-away region of Transnistria in Moldova, yet a sustainable and demonstrated track of Rule of Law will certainly pave the way to development benefits and desired external policies’ objectives.
As far as Rule of Law external policies pay-offs are concerned, it’s useful to remember that the approach to the Rule of Law in the context of accession of new Member States has been formulated mainly by the European Commission, through the assessment mechanisms initiated in the mid-1990s further enhanced by more than a decade of practice in applying it. The Commission also formulated the concept of Rule of Law in external relations in respect of cooperation, aid and trade, including the Eastern Dimension of the Neighborhood Policy, and jointly with the Council and its Secretariat as regards other foreign policy measures (Dr. Erik O. Wennerström from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The European Union and Rule of Law – applying different standards? Speech at a World Bank event, 15 October 2009). Thus, the EU external requirements on Rule of Law, in particular after 2007, became more and more challenging in terms of stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, including in the context of Neighborhood policies.
Rule of Law has been crafted and cultivated in some more civilized parts of the globe for decades and are a product of modern development. It’s beauty comes, on the one hand, from original works of modern times (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, to quote but few), and a constant up-grade and evolution generated by world-wide governance development lessons learned. In some respects, its implementation does not require the reinvention of the wheel in respect of the role of law in defining an economic and social order based on contract, property and rights. Thus, today’s committed leaders can fully benefit from a body of knowledge, shall there be political will and technical capacity to take action and adapt it with innovation and courage to their own countries’ context.
Accountability, effectiveness and Rule of Law indicators present a poor performance in Moldova (Daniel Kaufman, Aart Kray and Massimo Mastruzzi, idem). A quick diagnosis of Moldova’s state of affairs in mid 2009 depicts widespread corruption, bent courts, dysfunctional public institutions, an empty public budget, a sick economy, a country estranged from its historic partners and neighbours and frozen relations with IMF (his is exemplified by a rejection of needed IMF programme claiming that a USD 500 mln preferential loan is immediately available from Russia and an increase of public spending through unaccounted commitments to raise public sector salaries, which proved nothing but a communist party’s pre-electoral move) and other development partners. Instead of advancing reforms, the previous communist government has captured power and assets, blocking any emerging attempt from civil society and opposition parties to call for justice and Rule of Law.
Eight years of governance by an autocratic party in Moldova provide numerous examples of how “rule of law” shall not be applied. The criminal justice system is just an example selected for reasons of indicators of law enforcement and citizens’ security. A recent Soros Foundation Moldova report found a worrying lack of public trust in various parts of the criminal justice system, and the deep levels of fear among people of Moldova equaled only in countries with far higher crime rates; a lack of respectful processes and procedures; an unreformed in policy and practice police; inappropriate prosecution procedures; an overburdened judiciary which also suffers legitimacy challenges; a Bar and a legal aid system which fail to deliver adequate legal assistance (Soros Foundation – Moldova, Criminal Justice Performance from a Human Rights Perspective. Assessing the Transformation of the Criminal Justice System in Moldova, Chisinau, November 2009).
Recently reinstalled commitment to Rule of Law starts to pay off and Moldova’s case demonstrates it with the following examples: approval of the first Common Declaration on 21.12.2009 at the Cooperation Council between EU and Moldova supportive of Moldova’s European reforms aspirations with commitments to Rule of Law and good governance paid due tribute to; highest ever meetings levels with EU officials, including the new President of the European Council; IMF and subsequent EU financial disbursements; opening of EU association negotiations on 12 January 2010 after almost a year of stalemate; swift negotiations and entry into force of the Small Border Traffic Agreement between Moldova and Romania.
1. How to make Rule of Law sustainable
The importance of the Rule of Law is now widely accepted and commonly invoked by politicians and rule-makers. What is missing is a thorough understanding of how to build a sustainable system that embodies all its attributes, including fair laws that are effectively enforced and that bind even the state itself. The following aims at addressing the issue of how to make Rule of Law sustainable in Moldova’s current internal and external environment for the sake of development and European integration.
To be successful, Rule of Law initiatives need to be connected with country’s development agenda, if decision-makers want Rule of Law to be viewed as a critical proponent of country’s development objectives. To enable such a strategic alignment, decision-makers at local level should connect and get involved with decision makers at regional and national level to create strategic alliances. Such strategic alliances enable common strategic planning sessions, e.g. on the occasion of Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and annual budget planning, give access to specific country’s long-range goals and provide understanding of how those goals are to be implemented at regional and local level. Local moguls resisting central power and central authority exercising pressure on local power, usual practices under the previous government, are not win-win alliances and definitely not a best case scenario for ordinary citizens.
Central policy coordination is expected to enable strategic alignment of national development agenda and MTEF with Rule of Law initiatives. Despite efforts since 2005 when the central public administration reform has been launched, such a policy coordination mechanism is yet to be fully enabled in Moldova. Negotiations with EU on a new agreement, which will encompass a wide range of internal policies, will make decision-makers revisit the importance of policy coordination and hopefully strengthen it and make it operational.
The identification of Centers of Excellence for Rule of Law based policy coordination and implementation will help promote best practices and encourage rule of law behavior in public administration.
Rule of Law is a complex export-import item
Democracies-to-be are in a way naturally looking for models. The need to be anchored in a sustainable democracy model is ever more acute in countries which used to vacillate between Western and Eastern governance models. New states in the quest for Rule of Law, either return to legal pre-soviet traditions, if they have it, or import foreign legal and economic concepts or follow a “gravity model of democratisation”. EU member states share a commitment to common values, such as democracy, respect for human rights, Rule of Law. The power of attraction of the EU value system has been so strong as to profoundly transform the societies of Central and Eastern Europe. In spite of its own internal “democracy deficit” or some of its external policies plight, which is a subject-matter of other research papers, EU continues to have the merit of a Rule of Law power of attraction.
Rule of Law is now being viewed more and more as a key policy goal amongst international development actors. Donors’ contributions take the form of donors’ funds, budget support, EC and/or Members States individual programmes and projects. Examples are many: a World Bank managed Public Administration Reform Trust fund in Moldova (2006-2010); EC Capacity-Building for Reform in Periods of Transition’ programme in over 20 states; EC or World Bank budget support programmes in particular on economic governance.
International development agencies have tended to frame the Rule of Law issues as predominantly technical concerns. Accordingly, the policy response has therefore favored the input of technical solutions (e.g. expert missions, the sharing of best practices, training programs) but the outcomes often fail to meet expectations. Western legal systems are held up as models to aspire to, but little historical interrogation is undertaken of how these systems developed and the underlying bargains they represent. Hence the increased responsibility of Rule of Law exporters and the need for a balanced and tailor – made approach of importers. On the former, donors’ self-assessments of their development programmes or internal performance assessments to inform discussions with the government and development partners are becoming a more and more common practice. A fresh look from civil society, for example, can further increase the understanding of need for customer-made development programmes.
For the sake of quality of development aid supply the essence and to a lesser extent the form of intervention are valued by end-beneficiaries. Small by duration but with high and immediate impact as well as content-rich projects are better appreciated by both the donors’ states tax payers and development destinations.
Leaders must understand the internal and external dynamics of their countries, but also the regional and global environment. A rule maker shall be prepared to serve beyond his decision making powers to embrace the role of a Rule of Law provider, facilitator and serve as an example of accountability through checks and balances. An increased and proven accountability will also prevent the disheartening effect on Rule of Law reforms.
After almost a decade of drawbacks and compromised reforms, Moldovan authorities elected in July put more and more emphasis on Rule of Law. Every second official speech and interview by Government officials is now highlightening it. While bringing it verbally back in public speech is important for communication purposes, the Rule of Law discourse needs to be translated in visible deeds and deliverables.
The current Moldovan Executive is giving encouraging signs of reinstalling, or better put it, installing Rule of Law. Joined and supported by an effective and performing justice and a balanced and accountable law-making, it has increasing chances to succeed. The prosecution is now submitting to courts the outcomes of investigations of April 2009 events accompanied by police abuses and alleged cases of torture in detention. 6 court cases initiated out of 43 pending cases under investigation is a beginning, which needs to evolve according to merits of cases and bring justice to victims through due court procedures.
Hundreds of secret documents on questionable distribution of public funds and public procurement unjustifiably approved by the previous government are now made public. Again, applying Rule of Law checks in these cases would mean handing over the investigation to law enforcement bodies, strict application of criminal and civil law procedures and due court procedures with final court verdicts. All the above is paramount to securing the legitimacy and credibility of declared Rule of Law initiatives.
Last but not least, carefully and comprehensively crafted checks and balances of high European value are expected to be at the centre of a constitutional reform recently initiated by the chairman of the Moldovan Parliament, if or when one shall indeed take place, after carefully balanced legal and political considerations.
Rule of Law is a cross-cutting theme
Rule of Law is not an abstract legal or political concept. Rule of Law is meant to be the heart-piece of any form of human organization and interventions be it environment protection, social security, trade, economic governance, justice sector, private and financial sectors. It’s the ultimate check against which decisions shall be made and governance measures approved in all development areas.
Rule of Law issues should be looked at across all aspects of development. Ideally, Rule of Law is best designed and implemented not as stand-alone program or concept, but together with the whole range of development projects and reform processes undertaken by the Government and supported by development partners in every single area of society development.
Gradual versus overnight reforms*
Rule of Law in Moldova finds itself in the fragile condition of a fragile state. Careful planning, followed by thorough execution and monitoring both during and ex-post implementation will help prevent fallbacks risks and the “here we go again” syndrome.
Recent examples include justice sector reforms initiated and promoted by the Ministry of Justice. The first one is the proposal to the Parliament to dissolve commercial courts through the transfer of commercial jurisdiction to common courts as the only viable currently available solution to dismantling the nest of perceived flourishing corruption and court bad practices, which resulted in a poor track record at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg and additional expenditures to the meager State Budget. Leaving aside the objective, the rightfulness of which is not contested, the following implementation questions remain open: procedural guarantees for parties on pending and new commercial cases, preparedness of common courts to swiftly take over new complex cases, the status of commercial court judges and their appointment to common courts.
The second example is the replacement of public bailiffs with a private bailiffs institution in view of limiting and preventing the effects of “justice delayed – justice denied”, which dominated the Moldovan justice system for the past decade giving to the ECHR in Strasbourg solid reasons for condemning the Government in a series of landmark costly cases.
Both examples of reforms will work provided a thorough implementation plan is designed, gradually implemented and constantly monitored and evaluated to ensure that the declared objective of reforms, i.e. “a better served private sector”, is achieved and the end-beneficiary understands and is satisfied with their outcome. Moving from public to private enforcement systems, if chosen to be implemented as an overnight reform, which so far is how it looks like, may have numerous undesirable consequences. The experience of countries which have chosen to implement a private enforcement system, as an anticipated panacea to a defaulted public system, shows that the objective may be delayed or is unachievable due to high entry barriers, subsequent monopolies and as a result – secured income and low incentives to act leading to even lengthier enforcement procedures.
A gradual and iterative approach to internal reforms helps also in the context of European Integration and regional dynamics that need to be born in mind by the Government. Because “it takes two to tango” the EU’s message to Moldova is crystal clear on how important are long-terms perspectives accompanied by gradual steps and steady and agreed progress, for example in relation to a long term goal of visa-free travel of Moldovan citizens to the EU and a “shared objective to establish a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area”.
Rule of Law is everybody’s business
One of classic definitions of Rule of Law is “Government based on the general acceptance of the law”. Ideally. Bottom-up and top-down, all layers of the civil society, local and central government, academia and education establishments, think-tanks, the judiciary, the private sector are all stakeholders of the Rule of Law fair-play, equally bound to serve it and entitled to benefit from it. Hence concepts and actions of “community empowerment”, “citizens’ participation” and the like emerge. When a mayor of a town is “playing” with budget numbers, going around procurement rules, citizens should initiate and exercise public scrutiny over the local budget spending. An example of how it can actually work has been given by a group of citizens in a 18,000 population-town of Moldova who organized themselves to demand accountability from an un-transparent, un-open and unaccountable local administration and took it to court for irresponsiveness to citizens initiatives (trial pending). Isn’t it an inspiring example of “Yes, we can”?
The role of local-level institutions in development is more and more acknowledged worldwide and there are no reasons why Moldova would be an exception. Opportunities for community driven development arise after the former centrally-controlled system is being dismantled. A considerable investment into building a trust-worthy and pragmatic relationship between the central and local power will be necessary.
There is much talk around the importance of the judiciary for Rule of Law, none of which is minor. The Moldovan judiciary received a “failed” mark from the Moldovan Parliament. Yet, the emphasis placed on the paramount role of the judiciary needs to be weighted against and seen as an integral part of the performance and legitimacy of all other Rule of Law stakeholders: the Executive, prosecution and police, legal services market and private sector.
The role of Rule of Law professionals
Leaders are usually politicians, who often tend to forget or ignore the background they come from: legal, academic, business or, on the contrary, take a unilateral or biased view on Rule of Law promotion and implementation that can present even more dangers to development.
A Rule of Law initiative is better served if enhanced by technocrats. Sending a group of high-level external policy advisors on reforms, with a special emphasis on Rule of Law, is an approach tabled by EC. The key to success of such an endeavor is to secure at least the following conditions: (a) an open and transparent policy environment is in place; (b) Rule of Law efforts are supported and applied by a civil service committed to performance and reforms; (c) external advisors work jointly with, not as substitutes to, civil servants. An often quoted successful example is the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) with more than one hundred customs and border guard experts from 22 EU Member States working together on a daily basis with Moldovan and Ukrainian borders agencies’ employees to provide an wealth of best and smart practices.
The objective of Rule of Law advisors would be to prepare, train on and apply Rule of Law checklists in each area they work on. Each checklist will aim at providing multiple constituencies, decision and law-makers, civil society, researchers and donors with many of the key indicators needed to assess, report and monitor the progress of Rule of Law initiatives, to develop road maps, action plans and recommendations and communication strategies for consensus building around priority reforms, based on international norms, lessons learned and emerging best practices per area.
Unequivocal clarity on the end-beneficiary of Rule of Law
Rule and decision-makers may use mixed methods in an attempt to more closely discern and understand processes of change, and starting from the perspective of governance users will bring better support to Rule of Law initiatives. Moldovan citizens are not yet sufficiently informed and legally empowered to demand change and foster development. In such a context, it’s the ultimate responsibility of authorities to apply accountability, transparency and create forums for ascertaining rights.
Rule of Law initiatives need to be primarily undertaken for the benefit of the citizen, accompanied by legible, well designed and targeted communication strategies. One of examples on how this could be applied relates to the entry into force of the Small Border Traffic Convention with Romania where the distribution of information leaflets and posters in all Moldovan bordering regions concerned, designed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and implemented with local authorities and border management agencies will help citizens to ascertain their legitimate rights and responsibilities.
A Rule of Law centered on people will also discipline the Government. A private sector perspective on a customer-centered strategy will help the Government design and implement its approach vis-a-vis the end-beneficiary of Rule of Law initiatives. Such an approach would include the following steps: (a) establish and communicate the view on the end-beneficiary – Government relationship for the present and future development; (b) establish a system to, preferably, quantitatively monitor end-beneficiary satisfaction through e.g. surveys; (c) solicit ideas for improvement from the civil society and citizens and provide a follow-up on the above; (d) communicate continuously on all levels of the public administration on the relationship with the end-beneficiary of reforms, as a sort of “mantra in the public administration DNA”; (e) make progress on reforms visible to the end-beneficiary through regular communication; (f) reward exceptional end-beneficiary treatment and set the example through e.g. Centers of Excellence for citizens in the public administration and public services institutions.
Rule of Law is incompatible with state capture
State capture is defined as the efforts of firms to shape the laws, policies, and regulations of the state to their own advantage by providing illicit private gains to public officials.  Recent investigations reveal a number of wrongdoings and private sector attempts to go legit, which functioned for the last eight years in Moldova in conjunction with the public sector. Examples come from numerous monopolies (meat and fish imports e.g.), limited competition, non-transparent public procurement (renovation works of Parliament and Presidency buildings damaged during April 2009 events). One of recent examples is a group of well organized customs officials who have been prodigiously involved in smuggling goods and laundering money on behalf of a number of import companies, causing approximately USD 2 million damage to the State Budget. Although seemingly incomparable with Russian oligarchs, Moldovan “big sharks”, as baptized by the press, attempt to close “under the counter” deals with the new Government, according to a recent interview by the Moldovan Prime Minister who pledged to go public and follow the law on every single illegal case happening in the business environment involving state authorities. Stakes are high, therefore expectations need to be met with as little as possible room for public disappointment.
Transparency of public procurement is evermore important in anticipation of important investment for example in road infrastructure to be financed by the U.S. Millenium Challenge Corporation and an increased direct budget support provided by the World Bank and EU.
Cost of Rule of Law
Rule of Law initiatives are resource-intensive and as such need to be acknowledged. It’s worth perhaps looking at the other side of the coin: the cost of non-rule of law, for example in human capital terms. Every third Moldovan is contemplating the idea of leaving Moldova, in addition to hundreds of thousands already abroad, according to a recent Gallup survey.
Investments into court infrastructure, judges and law enforcement trainings, public sector salaries etc are to be made from public funds. Proving its commitment to Rule of Law with deeds, the Parliament maintained the same amount allocated to the judiciary for 2010 as in 2009, in spite of scarce public finances. The culture of both citizens and Government consciousness of costs of Rule of Law has to be continuously promoted and the notion of “return on Rule of Law investment” to be introduced in the public administration. External financial support packages, recently released after successful IMF negotiations, will help secure enough cash to finance the cost of Rule of Law complementary to internal resources.
The regulatory impact assessment, as a tool to assess information-based analytical approach to assess probable costs, consequences, and side effects of planned policy initiatives, is an important aid to political decision-making. Although successfully initiated in Moldova couple of years ago, it has been abandoned and/or only formally applied. Clearer guidelines, trained staff and demonstrated benefits of systematically applied practices will help bring regulatory impact assessments back and increase their value, in particular in the context of scarce public financial resources.
It’s true that not much empirical work has been done to verify the various claims made on Rule of Law behalf, because of inter alia the difficulty to measure it. Yet, the above needs not to discourage the pursuit of Rule of Law, especially in a country aspiring to democratic standards. Actually, an increased governmental, judicial, law enforcement, public policies transparency and recordkeeping will help gather data and measure Rule of Law progress and its impact. Surveys of the business community done locally or internationally (e.g. IFC annual Doing Business surveys) combined with data produced e.g. by integrated court case management system introduced in all courts in 2009 in Moldova have a great potential to finding growth and advancement of the European integration agenda positively correlated with the Rule of Law.
Moldova and its people cannot afford another democracy failure, an ultimate reason for Rule of Law to become a national project. Its implementation is a necessary time-consuming process that requires commitment beyond the time frames typically provided for by the electoral cycle or development projects timelines. Its success does not settle for outside advisors to provide their knowledge of “best practices” only via intensive short courses for senior civil servants, government officials and jurists. These will have much durable effect and credibility if also grounded in a committed and accountable national civil service. A community driven demand and an empowered citizen will set the stage for an increased Government accountability and effective public service supply.
The Parliament finally succeeded to elect the country’s president and no major political constraints are on the way. That’s being an important achievement, all Rule of Law projects need to be steadily and stubbornly continued for the sake of growth and successful European integration.
* to be read in the context of 2012.
 Full text Council of the European Union, EU – Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council
Brussels, 21 December 2009, Brussels, 17732/09 http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/er/112025.pdf .
 Michael Emerson and Gergana Noutcheva, Europeanisation as a Gravity Model of Democratisation, CEPS Working Documents, 1 November 2004.
 What values for Europe, CEPS Annual Conference, 2005, on http://www.ceps.eu/content/what-values-europe-ceps-annual-conference-2005.
 Caroline Sage, Nicholas Menzies, Michael Woolcock, The World Bank, Taking the Rules of the Game Seriously: Mainstreaming Justice in Development, The World Bank’s Justice for the Poor Program, Justice and Development Working papers series, 7/2009.
 An example: The World Bank, Moldova: Results and the World Bank, December 2006.
 European Court of Audit, The effectiveness of EU support in the area of freedom, security and justice for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, January 2009, http://eca.europa.eu/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/2016214.PDF.
 An example, ADEPT, Governance Priorities 2009, http://www.e-democracy.md/en/publications/prioritati-guvernare-2009 .
 According to General Prosecution Office, http://www.procuratura.md.
 Decree nr. 83-V, 1 December 2009.
 The World Bank, Poland Country Brief 2010, http://www.worldbank.bank/Poland.
 L.B. Curzon, Dictionary of Law, Pearson Education Limited, 2002.
 More info on http://civicauseni.com/.
 A redundant Ministry of Local Public Administration has been dismissed, a new procedure for appointment of Government representatives in territories with different powers is being put in place.
 Moldovan Parliament decision on state of affairs in the Judiciary, 30.10.2009.
 “European Commission provides High Level Policy Advisors to Republic of Moldova
…, at the EU – Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council, representatives of both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning an intention of the European Commission to provide the Government of the Republic of Moldovan with a High Level Policy Advisory Mission”. More on.
 Phrase coined by Michael E. Gordon, PhD, How to Turn Your Idea into a Money Machine, Trump University, John Wiley and Sons, Inc, 2007.
 The World Bank, Joel Hellman and Daniel Kaufmann, Confronting the Challenge of State Capture in Transition Economies, http://info.worldbank.org/etools/docs/library .
 At the end of December, the Prosecution initiated the case in courts.
 Interview with Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat on National Television, 26.12.2009, quoted on http://www.jurnal.md/ro/news/vlad-filat-mediul-de-afaceri-mai-este-incoltit-de-marii-rechini-102030/ .
 A USD 130 million agreement is to be signed in Washington by the end of January 2010.
 700 Million Worldwide Desire to Migrate Permanently, by Neli Esipova and Julie Ray, November 2, 2009, http://www.gallup.com/poll/124028/700-Million-Worldwide-Desire-Migrate-Permanently.aspx .
Nr 1 investment: professional relationships
If there would be one indefinite investment I would be asked to make in my professional life it would be human relationships.
In projects, even if short-lived, relationships matter the most. Project’s success rarely, if ever, depends on one person only. Relationships can make or break a project. As project managers, we have a double task of building our relationship with the team and creating/nurturing the environment in the team. And you should not forget about the relationship with yourself.
Relationships with team members start with developing rapport. I learned over years that developing rapport needs action on a number of levels:
A. “Knowing your self”, your triggers, your fears, your inner voice…
B. Taking time to learn about team members. What they like, what they dislike.
C. Opening yourself to others. The degree of openness depends on your introvert or extravert type of personality. Do not expect however the same from others. They will open when they are ready to trust.
D. Creating opportunities for team members to get to know each other. At a cooking class with colleagues, a team member exclaimed “you are surprisingly funny” addressing a colleague. Their work relationship flourished since then. This, in turn, brought large dividents to the project.
In a project team I managed, egos were big and complaints against each other – rampant. After a Christmas party, where each had to bring a gift to the team representing the country they were from, complaints ceased and the project could benefit from the unity of action through the diversity of background.
E. Making communication thoughtful and purposeful. In other words, think before talking and talk for a reason. Water cooler chats are fine, as long as no gossiping is involved.
F. Doing no harm to hamonious relationships between team members. Even if divide et impera worked in the short term, in long term it did not save even an empire.
G. Being consistent and practicing what you preach.
H. Giving credit where credit is due: in direct communication with the team member and also in discussions about what they do part of the project.
I. Staying humble and letting go when there is noting else you can do to keep or foster a relationship.
If you are wondering where to start, I found the following three tools useful:
- Profiling by colour
2. Personality Types test
3. “Tell me about your favourite spot”
Another useful “getting to know each other” exercise is “Tell me about your favourite spot“: each team member is asked to describe their favourite place in as many details as possible. It tells many thanks about how creative people are, if they value the process or the result, how important are other people in their story etc.
Nr 1 ability of a project manager
If there would be only one ability of a project manager I would choose from it would be resourcefulness. Resourcefulness is the ability to explore options, connect dots, step outside the comfort zone and think outside the box. It is to find water in a place others call “desert”.
Yes, projects are resources based. They have human and financial resources, and they are often seen as scarce. You know the story: not enough budget, not enough people, not enough time, not enough of something else …
Resourcefulness is connected to the mind set. The mindset is usually of scarcity or abundance. Some call it a “growth mindset”. See also “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” from Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2018/05/what-it-takes-to-think-deeply-about-complex-problems.
In Romanian, we say “Fa rai din ce ai” – make haven from what you have. Sure, there can be times when you genuinely think things through and still can’t find a solution. Yet, often just taking a step back, changing the perspective, will open the road to the solution. There is always a source of information to access, a door to knock on, a dormant budget line, a collaborative hand, an expertise to reach, even a chance remark by someone we value. It might be as simple as saying STOP to excuses and justifications, for a start.
If you need a change of perspective, there are a number of techniques in the world of psychology to acknowledge, validate and reframe how you see a situation. You can take a break and watch “Sing” – the part in which Buster Moon turned the ruins of his theater into the greatest show in the town.
Case in point
When I started working on a project, it was at month 18 and had 6 more months to end date. It had of number of symptoms of a troubled project. The delivery rate was 50%. A number of milestones were not achieved and unfinished tasks “rejoiced” in the backlog.
The organisation had only a national consultant on the ground and no other support staff in the country the project had to be implemented, 6000 km away from headquarters. Each deliverable was painful for those who organized it before me. At that rate, we could have as well closed the project upfront.
A quick review of the modus operandi made me realise the biggest bottleneck was linked to the organisation of events in the country. Each activity required a venue, transportation, catering, interpretation, translation, printing, accommodation for consultants. Performed individually, these tasks ate up all of the previous project managers’ time and efforts.
The solution was an events management company to deal with all the logistics on the ground. A tender was organised to choose the best value for money on the market. Once the contract with the winner was signed, the project team was able to fully focus on the content and milestones of the project.
As a result, the delivery rate increased in 5 months to 85 percent of the budget, all products were delivered and the project’s objective – achieved. All – to the clients and donor’s satisfaction.
Things we do in projects: managing conflict between team members
It was my first week in a new project manager’s job. I got a phone call from Avery – a consultant on the team – who sounded distressed and wanted to urgently meet. I agreed immediately and we met that afternoon.
Almost sobbing, she told me that her male colleague undermines her position and makes her efforts futile. She went on and on. The word “harassment” was in the air. From her narrative, it seems that it was happening for months, if not years. I asked her if she talked about her experience with the previous three project managers this project had. “No”, she admitted, and said she was “not able to take it anymore”…
I offered her a number of options, including to involve human resources, as she mentioned harassment. She agreed with the option of both of them meeting in my presence. I called our other colleague and we met couple of days later over a cup of coffee, on a neutral territory.
– Avery has something to tell you, Nick.
Avery was hesitating but it was too late to retrieve from the face-to-face. With some encouragement, she voiced her concerns. I could see Nick was in shock.
After the meeting he came by my office.
– I am shocked, he said.
– Yes, I saw.
– She spent her Sundays in my house, having wine with me and my wife, over the last two years. We work on a daily-basis… Now to hear all that and the bitterness in her voice…
I listened to his account of events. We agreed that he will think about what he can do on the points she raised. He was to remove all issues she could have potentially thought of as red flags in her communication with their common client.
As a project manager, I reassigned the assistant they shared, so there would be no suspicion of unwanted information passing from one office to another. Nick also arranged for the client to give her an honorary award. Needless to say, they did not have wine together after that. As things evolved in next months, we could see she liked her victim’s role and was soon after another colleague.
Two years later, Nick died of cancer. I always wondered if that story did not trigger it.
This story taught me many things. It taught me empathy and its dark side. It also reminded me to:
- Observe the interaction between team members and stay informed.
- Listen to both sides.
- Do what you can to help overcome the conflict by giving both sides an equal opportunity to voice their concerns.
- Do not allow for self-victimisation on the team. It serve no purpose.
- Take things seriously and involve Human Resources or mediators when there are indications of inappropriate behaviour and disrespect.
- Stay alert to the need to revisit team members’ communication needs and channels and eventually redistribute roles within the team.
- Last but not least, act with integrity.
* names are changed.
How to maintain collaboration between project team members who do not like each other
A very good colleague of mine – Peter – once told me “At work, there is professionalism, respect and chemistry. It is ideal when you have all three. You can still work with the first two only though”.
Indeed, chemistry is valuable and rare. Not all project teams have it. Sometimes it is possible to create it. Sometimes it is not. We all encountered “cats and dogs” teams or “implosive teams”. Regardless, the project has to be delivered and the client – satisfied.
As a project manager, you might find yourself in-between. The tension might be silent or loud. Team members might want you to deal with it or just, quite the opposite, to not get mixed up.
Over years, I learned that there are a number of things a project manager can do:
- Observe to be able to prevent and to react, as appropriate.
- Learn about what’s behind the tension by listening. Truly listening to both sides.
- Clarify what’s in your power to do. Can you:
- redistribute roles based on team members’ strengths?
- offer safe space for people to get it off their chest?
- give other channels of communication between the “belligerents”? for example, communication through Slack, if they cannot talk to each other, or encourage more face-to-face communication, when misunderstandings arise from written communication.
- replace irreconcilable members of the team on areas which are essential for the project’s success?
4. If the organisation has training opportunities, offer to the members of the team to go to communication or conflict management trainings.
5. Remind everyone of the common objectives the entire team works for. Focus on what the team members have in common, not their dividing lines.
6. Organise informal team gatherings, over a beer or a bowling night or even a battle of any sorts (rap, dance, storytelling). It will offer team members an opportunity to know each other from other perspectives.
7. Above all, lead by example. Team members will often mirror the project manager’s preferences or dislikes. Keep your integrity in check.
Let’s project some fun
Yes, there are days like these in projects : )
Meez: advice from a chef to a project manager
Meez comes from ‘mise en place” known to chefs and kitchen staff. Renown chef Anthony Bourdain was caught saying “we do not dare so much as boil hot water without attending to a ritual that is essential for any self-respecting chef: mise-en-place”.
The French “Mise en place” means “everything is in its place”.
True for any self-respecting chef. True for any self-respecting project manager.
Meez in any project means that time is precious.
Project resources are precious.
Your self-respect and the respect of others are precious.
And a self-respecting project manager owns it to him/herself, to the project team and the client.
A chef will imagine a plan for a meal he/she is about to make before they begin. The plan will include the tools, equipment, delivery of products time, ingredients and their proportion, size of plates and even their temperature.
A project manager will create an action plan then a work breakdown structure. It will show what, who, when, for how long, how much budget is necessary to deliver the product/service to the client.
You’ll know how rigorous is the project manager if he/she has in place the team, needs assessments, the feasibility study results, the work plan, the procurement plan, the clearances/permits and other pre-requisites before the project starts.
Meez is gold. “Time spent on preparation saves time on implementation” remains a golden rule in project management.
Red flags in project procurement
Development management projects (and not only) often involve procurement. Goods, works and services are necessary for the achievement of a change supported by the project. Usually, procurements are managed by project managers. In some organisations, project managers are assisted by specialised procurement services.
Procurements of goods, services and works differ by scope and complexity and require different control structures. Procurements serve the purpose of accountability to donors and the principles of the open competition. Procurement policies shall offer a fit-for-purpose framework and value-for-money spent.
To prevent damages from ill managed procurements – financial and reputational – there are a number of checks to be made and safeguards to be put in place before and during the procurement. Check your organisation’s rules and procedures on that. This will help prevent any eventual red flags, such as single bidding, for example, or unusually big differences between bids.
Each project cycle requires a number of checks in place for a transparent and fraud free procurement. Here is a selection of some, from my experience and the experience of a number of teams I worked with:
A. Needs identification:
- Include a wide variety of stakeholders in the needs identification and selection to prevent capture and undue influence from certain entities;
- Put in place or revisit your conflict of interest policy;
- Protect confidential information and prevent insider trading.
- Design merit based appraisal criteria;
- Choose the financial and other criteria wisely;
- Publish the tender with clear appraisal criteria, procedures and terms;
- Ensure the publicity of the tender to a wide public;
- Give sufficient time for tendering;
- Be clear about the documents required to be submitted in support of the tender;
- Do not split contracts to avoid the competition/tendering.
C. Evaluation of the tender:
- Follow with rigour the established criteria as published;
- Ensure the members of the evaluation group are free of conflict of interest; manage the conflict of interest;
- Document the evaluation process;
- Get the approval of the tender board to contract the winning bidder(s).
- Monitor the contractor’s obligations through reports and invoices audit;
- Prevent and/or avoid substantial renegotiations of contractual terms;
- Perform on-site visits to confirm the quality and quality of works, services and goods.
There is also the evaluation and audit stage, which might not be in the direct and immediate project manager’s realm. Yet, the project manager needs to remain alert, in particular, if/when any of the above stages give rise to red flags.
If you interest in other or additional related aspects, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0263786316301090
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