It’s so important to say ….. አመሰግናለሁ āmeseginalehu

After completing my twentieth mission to the Greater Horn of Africa for the EU Law Enforcement Project – I have learnt it can be the smallest things that have the greatest impact.

Communication and trust are vital in all walks of life and especially in international judicial cooperation. You can be the best lawyer – but if you don’t build relationships – you make your job so much harder.

Just picking up the phone and talking to counterparts in another country – to build rapport – is so important. I remember when I was a prosecutor calling my French colleague for an urgent mutual legal assistance request and just tried to open the conversation by speaking in my basic French – albeit very poor – it was a good icebreaker!

We are too often hidden behind a computer screen – emailing our requests – without establishing that human contact to ensure our requests are handled efficiently, correctly and quickly.

Indeed, isn’t it better to catch someone’s attention by showing you care and take an interest? With everything being so quick in our digital online lives – we can be too quick to forget that it’s, “good to talk.”

In the context of international judicial cooperation – on the EU project in the Greater Horn of Africa – we always try to advance the informal as well as the formal. This is why we have focussed on the practitioners – to build their confidence and give them the tools they need to be practical.

Whilst we have created a regional website with country Fiches and Manuals on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance – there is no replacement for actually having the confidence to effectively communicate with another country to get the process moving. Along with the tools – a practitioner needs to know how to apply them!

Through the establishment of Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) – modelled on the European Judicial Network – an aim of the project is to encourage this approach of reaching out to colleagues before sending a formal request and then throughout the process.

In this spirit I always try to learn at least one word in the country we are visiting. In Ethiopia it was “thank you” in Amharic – አመሰግናለሁ or āmeseginalehu.

Of course my pronunciation was very poor – but I tried – and by laughing together – rapport and trust was furthered! Indeed, the thanks was sincerely meant, as the delegates demonstrated their application of the tools and showed how much they have progressed in the two years of the project.

Next stop is Uganda – for a regional meeting of the SPOCs – where we take the project to another level of integration to operationalise the regional international judicial cooperation network in the Greater Horn of Africa!

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