The principal role of the UK government's Department for International Development is to alleviate poverty in poor countries, and conflict is one of the biggest stumbling-blocks to helping the poor. In 2001, after more than a decade of war, the Balkans region was in the grip of corruption and organised crime. The relationship between citizens and the justice authorities was threadbare. Ethnic communities complained of prejudice and injustices, and crimes went unpunished. Without fair access to justice, the conflict might reignite.
In 2002, DFID asked Atos to implement a £12.5m project in the Balkans to improve the effectiveness of the police, courts, prisons and central government ministries running these systems.
Atos put together a team of close to 100 people in 17 locations, working in four different languages. There were consultants with experience of developing countries, specialists and practitioners, plus local experts. The team began by assessing the justice and home affairs systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia.
Atos encountered contrasting organisational cultures in the region. Justice systems focused on exerting control rather than safeguarding citizens. With pride in the old Jugoslav ways, many organisations and individuals felt they had little to learn from a bunch of foreign consultants.
After a conflict assessment to prioritise the countries, Atos and DFID agreed 11 major projects with 25 beneficiary organisations. These ranged from schemes with a central, strategic focus - such as improving the organisation of courts, prisons and police systems - to projects with a local focus, such as introducing a customer service ethos within municipal courts and local police forces. The Atos input ranged from reworking police shift-patterns to writing reform plans for government ministers.
Despite the 2003 assassination of the Serbian prime minister, the ensuing state of emergency, violence in Kosovo and several general elections, Atos completed all 11 projects in just three years. It can point to improved relations between police and citizens, and better reporting of crime and clear-up rates. In the courts, case backlogs have been cut, the number of summons delivered has risen, and adjournments have fallen dramatically.
- The Platinum Award winner was picked as the outstanding entry across all 10 categories in the MCA Management Awards 2007. The overall winner took the award in the International category for its Balkans Justice Programme. Runners-up in this category were as follows ...
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In a £12.5m Balkans scheme, ATOS fielded 100 staff in 17 locations for 11 DFID projects aimed at restoring confidence in the police and justice systems of the former Jugoslav states.
- Recruit and develop the consulting skills of local people as key members of the team.
- Build relationships with employees in their native language.
- Engage individuals on how their work roles and careers might be enhanced through improved performance, customer service and accountability.
- Give project managers freedom to manage, mentor and appraise their teams, but ensure regular communications between projects.