“Back then, training was just done to tick a box,” recalled Mohammad Naeem Latoon, one of IDLO’s legal specialists working with the Afghan Supreme Court’s training department, looking back on how capacity development was implemented in Afghanistan almost a decade ago.
He said international advisers conducted most of the courses and “often showed up without any training material – sometimes only with a marker.”
“There were no criteria for the selection of trainers and trainees, no needs assessments, no training evaluation forms, no terms of reference. I saw a class on criminal law being taught by someone with no legal knowledge. Nobody was happy with the way these courses were organized.”
Local ownership and professional standards
Training initiatives on offer to Afghanistan’s justice professionals have come a long way since those early days of efforts to rebuild the country’s institutions.
IDLO has been working since 2013 to build the capacity of Afghanistan’s justice sector with the support of the United States Department of State. From early on, IDLO recognized the potential and changing demands of the country, and emphasized the need for local ownership and adoption of professional training standards in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of training efforts.
Over the years, the Afghan Supreme Court, the Office of the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Justice have progressively taken ownership of professional capacity development.
Where courses were previously almost exclusively delivered by international organizations and foreign-led programs, today professional training departments have been set up within each of the institutions, which are responsible for assessing needs and delivering their own courses.
IDLO assisted with the set-up of the professional training departments and provides ongoing support through training of trainers, monitoring of training activities, coaching for curriculum development, training delivery and matters related to human resources, budgeting and procurement.
Since 2018, all legal training supported by IDLO’s program – a total of 125 courses delivered to 2,921 judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers – has been conducted by the justice institutions themselves.
Achieving one of IDLO’s key objectives, the institutions even managed to train legal professionals from all 34 Afghan provinces, including remote or dangerous provinces where professionals often go untrained due to security risks, such as Kunduz and Farah.
Better training leads to better justice outcomes
As a result, Afghanistan’s justice institutions have seen a significant increase in training quality, and there is growing political recognition of the value of quality professional development.
“There is political will even at the highest level to allocate budget to training,” commented Mr. Latoon. The institutions have seen an increase in the budget allocated to their training departments, allowing them to plan self-funded training activities for the very first time. In 2019, the Office of the Attorney-General carried out eight training courses for a total of 244 prosecutors using its own in-house instructors, curricula and funds.
Better training leads to better justice outcomes for the people of Afghanistan. Rafi Khalil Naasar, who is an IDLO training specialist and monitors training implemented by justice institutions, recalled asking a prosecutor in Nangarhar province what impact a training had on him.
The prosecutor said: “When I first started investigating cases, I thought I just had to report to the crime scene and observe the police. It was only after attending training that I understood more about my role in guiding the work of the police at the scene.”
Training tools and standardized curricula
Nasirullah Khalid first started working with IDLO in 2005. When he returned in 2015 after a three-year hiatus as an adviser on curriculum development, justice institutions were delivering training themselves but still used curricula developed by IDLO. He and his colleagues began coaching the trainers to develop their own training tools, using a standardized approach and format.
Developing good training entails more than just technical expertise of the subject matter. “Curriculum development requires at least three different kinds of skills: good grammar and language, strong writing and critical thinking. Trainers should have learned these skills at university, but in Afghanistan many people still lack these competencies by the time they graduate,” explained Mr. Khalid.
To overcome these skill deficits, Mr. Khalid and his IDLO colleagues provide intensive mentoring to institutional trainers as they write standardized curricula on specialized criminal law topics, such as money laundering and anti-corruption.
IDLO helps to integrate gender issues in curricula developed by institutional trainers, for instance by adding case examples or suggesting text edits.
“Now the institutions’ trainers are able to develop their own standard curricula with real objectives, based on needs assessments, following a standard format, taking into account gender considerations and with lots of case studies,” said Mr. Khalid, proudly. “We are not delivering training for the sake of training. We are delivering training to fix actual problems and address real needs.”
We are not delivering training for the sake of training. We are delivering training to fix actual problems and address real needs.