Kabul, May 2012. Military prosecutor Major Saidullah looks puzzled. “How did you deal with such cases back in Romania?” he enquires of his mentor. A vivid discussion on how best to proceed with embezzlement cases ensues, during which EUPOL’s Florin Ungureanu shares many an experience from his years as AGO judicial police investigator and Chief Commissar in Iasi. Meanwhile, a few kilometers down the road, Arnaud Braem is busy brainstorming with Abdul Qader Roshangar, the Minister of Interior’s Legal Adviser. Two cups of steaming tea and the obligatory selection of Afghan mew-e-khuskh dry fruits sit untouched on the side table, while EUPOL mentor and MoI mentee are putting together a calendar of responsibilities and deadlines for Roshangar’s ten person legal advisory team.
These scenarios vividly depict the type of situations EUPOL mentors find themselves in every day. But how does one define the work of a mentor? How to measure the impact of mentoring sessions in a way that makes sense?
In a recent internal brainstorming workshop, EUPOL mentors came together to discuss these and other questions. Sascha Weh, mentor to the Deputy Minister for Security, shared his insights collected with experience of almost four years as and with mentors in Afghanistan. “We have to distinguish between mentoring and advising,” he starts out. “Mentoring is a long term transfer of knowledge, ideally based on trust and mutual respect, between a mentor and a mentee, aimed at improving the personal and professional skills of the mentee.” Advising, on the other hand, is defined by EUPOL as a short term transfer of knowledge/ support to a group, aimed at identifying solutions for specific problems in a specific timeline.
What seems obvious in theory is often difficult to distinguish in practice; the lines are blurred. “Looking at the strict definition,” Arnaud Braem agrees, “I am both a mentor and adviser. This week, for example, I will be sitting down with the entireof legal advisers and discuss with the group a more structured approach to conducting legislative review. This is different from the skills-based mentoring I conduct with the chief legal advisor.” Both tasks are important, and both need to be measured.“We aim to strengthen our mentees in a variety of ways,” Sascha Weh (pictured with his mentee General Rahman) explains. This includes their technical and operational skills in relation to daily business; their administrative and organizational knowledge, connected to self-management or leadership of a unit; their understanding of the political environment, for example the way in which they handle issues that can prove beneficial or damaging; and lastly their personal skills and qualifications. “
But how,” Weh asks, “do you convey progress in these areas to your donors and supporters back in Brussels?” It is not enough to calculate the hours a mentor spends with his or her mentee. Instead of overly focusing on output and numbers, EUPOL’s RoL and Police Component have been working on meaningful ways to measure outcome, the way in which mentoring brings about change. “If my mentee implements an operational tool, such as a ‘tickler file’ (a folder that files time-sensitive documents by the date on which each document requires action to be taken, thereby ‘tickling’ everybody’s memory), which means that operations in his office are much more efficient, that is real progress for me.” Weh sets out. The Workshop, conducted as part of an internal RoL Conference, then jointly developed uniform tools intended to measure change.
Centre stage was a discussion on the importance of a mandatory initial mentoring plan that will later provide the base line for measuring progress. This preparatory work then has to be accompanied by the actual implementation of the set objectives. Evaluating progress, an often neglected element of the mentoring relationship, was identified as another core element. Throughout this process, meticulous record keeping has to be maintained, and the workshop participants identified a number of templates to be used in the future.
Pondering the importance of what he learned during the workshop, Florin Ungureanu concludes that the most important lesson for a mentor is that of cultural awareness and knowledge of the environment in which he finds himself. “It is vital for mentors to understand the Afghan legal system. There are many differences – not least of which is the importance of sharia law – which we have to be aware of before we start sharing our own experiences.”
And then he reflects on the most vital element of all, the relationship of mutual trust and respect. “Ultimately, mentors and mentees, international prosecutors, Afghan prosecutors … we are of the same kind … we all want to get the bad guys.” This communality connects, building a bridge between the cultures.