Wilfried De Wever, President of Effectius
BL: What does Effectius do?
WDW: Effectius works on improving the effectiveness of justice systems in the world.
We have built an information platform of experts who work on the effectiveness of justice systems and look at solutions and best practices to improve justice problems. Several elements are central to the effectiveness of justice: (1) cost, which refers to identifying cost reduction possibilities or investment needs to attain a certain level of effectiveness; (2) administrative burden, which refers to the overwhelming pressure on resources both human and administrative; (3) fairness which refers to the respect for fundamental rights; and (4) speed, which refers to the judicial procedure defined by quantity of cases processed and duration of process.
For example, we look at solutions and problems that governments, individuals, organisations, etc. face. Many times, different parties encounter similar challenges, yet do not communicate very much, thus making the learning process with regard to solutions to justice problems difficult. Within the EU, the level of communication is slightly higher as the EU has set up formal frameworks, but on the worldwide scale, this is not the case.
In facing justice system effectiveness, another challenge is that some actors are lawyers or come from a legal background, so they tend to view issues from a legal perspective only. However, a holistic approach is needed for any organisation to be effective. Thus taking into account cost and efficiency as well as the law is key. The process needs to be customer oriented.
BL: What is Effectius’ background?
WDW: The idea for Effectius started from personal history, so I’ll start with myself. I studied law, then economics and then I did consulting work for the European Commission – mostly to the DG Justice, Freedom and Security – whilst working in a private consulting company in Brussels. At the Commission, I worked on a variety of topics including improving border control, crime statistics, Ministry of Justice organisation process re-engineering, immigration and the exchange of criminal records. Two years ago, I became a freelance consultant and also coordinated a research project for the UNODC in which the team compared the performance of justice systems worldwide. Within that project, one of the findings was that the exchange of best practice is not working well and there is a need for a strong international justice effectiveness platform. So, Liévine Prince, the project research assistant at the time and I decided to start the Effectius initiative. Tiffany Fortney, the third co-founder has strengthened the founding team with a stronger focus on the development implications of justice effectiveness and community engagement. Now we are a legal non profit organisation working from Brussels working with a committed team of interns and longer term volunteers.
BL: What are some examples of Effectius’ accomplishments since its launch in 2009?
WDW: The most important achievement so far has been developing the initial database of best practices and to lay the foundations for the research methodology and the international network. Effectius now has 300 solutions that will be transferred into a new template and a new database during the summer, three part-time researchers, five city coordinators, four data and research analysts, a communications officer and an increasing number of contributors, social networks members and newsletter readers. We are also organising awareness raising events in Brussels and in countries where we have city coordinators. Best practices or solutions that we find relevant are shared in our newsletters and on the information platform at a later stage.
BL: What are some projects Effectius will be taking on in the future?
WDW: Our main focus right now is finalising the project description for the Effective Justice Platform for the next year right now. This will enable us to clearly communicate on the core mission and methodology of Effectius and reach out to potential partners.
With respect to research domains, we are looking more closely at e-justice and micro-justice right now. Within the realm of e-justice, we will explore how and to what extent the internet and IT tools can aid effective justice. Micro-justice refers to the ability to bring effective justice to people with limited resources, especially those in developing countries.
Additionally, the Commission has a new call for action grants and we would like to focus on making sure that we connect with the right partners on the exchange of best practice as well as other key justice priorities (for example: the use of biometrics).
We are keen on creating partnerships with existing organisations working with justice effectiveness. We are also interested specifically in law firms and whether they are interested in linking with us. Some firms might have corporate social responsibility programmes which would serve as a catalyst for improving the effectiveness of justice. If your readers are working in one of those firms, we would be more than willing to provide more information on our organisation.
All in all, for the future, our main goals are to further expand our network, build up our platform and secure sustainable funding.
BL: What do you see as being the main challenges Effectius faces in trying to achieve its goals?
WDW: Effectius is a young organisation with a global ambition. We need to grow substantially in order to have the social impact that we are aiming for. Growth also requires funding. Our current challenge is that albeit the fact that the individuals working for Effectius are or have been involved in reference projects, the organisation is too young to have a long track record. A lot of people are attracted to our mission and they feel there is a real need for this initiative, but Effectius is not yet at the stage where it can meet the enthusiasm we encounter with the financial resources to support that flame.
BL: Can international lawyers in Brussels help Effectius?
WDW: Yes, if some international lawyers are interested in the effectiveness of justice systems, their participation as experts in certain projects would certainly help our cause. We are interested in working with freelance legal experts, especially for projects we are engaged in for the EU and the UN.
For more information, go to www.effectius.com.
BL: Good luck. Thank you for your time.