Tetra Tech worked to strengthen the capacity of judicial sector professionals and institutions in North Macedonia, while formulating and implementing changes to improve court functions.

As North Macedonia sought to improve the rule of law and foster economic growth and democratic development, the country required an independent, efficient judiciary system. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) selected Tetra Tech to implement the Judicial Strengthening Program (JSP) to improve the independence of North Macedonia’s judiciary and its systems; foster efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the courts; and increase citizen trust and confidence in the integrity of the judicial branch. This four-year project worked to develop broad-based support for rule of law and judicial sector reform in North Macedonia.

With the support from the Judicial Strengthening Project, the Court Administration Association improved its professionalism and efficiency, which resulted in a vast number of successfully completed activities.

Borce Mirceski, President of the Court Administration Association

Tetra Tech helped improve the North Macedonian justice sector by supporting professional associations to play a leadership role in efforts to reform the justice system, advocate for their members’ interests, and increase public awareness and participation in justice sector reforms and rule of law issues. Three organizations received JSP interventions: the North Macedonian Judges Association, the Court Administration Association, and the North Macedonian Young Lawyers Association. Tetra Tech worked with these organizations to implement a comprehensive series of trainings and workshops to build their capacity and ensure sustainability.

We supported a study tour to Sweden and Estonia, where young professionals from North Macedonian civil society organizations and legal professional associations met with bar associations, district courts, and human rights organizations. Participants learned how to conduct targeted advocacy campaigns, monitor the implementation of judicial reforms, influence policymaking, and use the media to highlight corruption and interference in the judiciary by other branches of government. In addition, JSP assisted with drafting and publishing a revised Judicial Code of Ethics and developed two consecutive strategic plans for the judiciary aimed at developing organizational structure, improving sustainability, increasing judicial independence and court efficiency, strengthening public trust, improving the budgeting process, and building skills and expertise of judges and court administrators.

Tetra Tech also worked with selected nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify their financial needs, their resources, and potential new funding sources. We provided intensive institutional capacity-building support using the Institutional Development Tool, a modified version of Tetra Tech’s Institutional Integrity Model, which helps NGOs to conduct a self-evaluation and develop a performance scorecard. The scorecard is integrated into the project monitoring and evaluation plan to measure human and institutional capacity-building progress in each NGO. We also offered training and mentoring in grant writing and grant management.

A crucial element of strong rule of law is a transparent and accountable judiciary. We worked to improve use of electronic court records (ECR) systems, which help ensure transparency of the judicial process by diminishing the likelihood of unethical behavior in the courtroom. ECRs also provide an accurate record for appeals, thereby supporting litigants, attorneys, and judges alike. Prior to JSP, court staff did not use the 80 ECRs installed in North Macedonian courtrooms. To increase use of the ECRs, Tetra Tech conducted intensive training, including 471 personnel in 29 North Macedonian courts; by the end of the project, 86 courtrooms were effectively using ECRs.

To build on the success of using ECRs and to further improvements to the North Macedonian judicial sector’s ability to deliver justice, Tetra Tech developed and implemented an advanced case management tool known as Differentiated Case Management (DCM) into North Macedonian courts. DCM efficiently and effectively reduced case backlogs and the project trained North Macedonian judges and other justice sector staff on the system through a study tour to the United States, workshops, and a manual on DCM implementation to promote self-reliance and ensure sustainability of the system in North Macedonian courts.

Recognizing that citizen engagement and informed, active public participation are crucial to establishing an efficient and accountable modern judicial system, JSP supported justice-oriented civil society organizations to form the Rule of Law Council (ROLC). The ROLC is an umbrella organization of legal professional associations and civil society organizations designed to be a forum and force for positive change in North Macedonia. With JSP support, the ROLC launched a public awareness campaign centering on North Macedonia’s criminal procedure law to inform citizens of their rights and obligations under the law.

Tetra Tech improved the capacity of North Macedonian professional judicial associations and civil society to generate momentum for reform. We also trained judges and court personnel to deliver justice, while implementing sustainable procedures to allow courts to efficiently and consistently apply judicial policies and practices. This results-oriented approach allowed the team to empower the judiciary system to take the lead in its own reforms, while creating externally driven demand among citizens for judicial services and for checks and balances in the democratic process. To foster self-reliance and achieve sustainability, JSP also equipped local partners with the skills and capacities to implement reforms on their own, identified leaders in the judicial sector, and improved management and leadership techniques through training, study tours, and pilot programs.