• 16 November 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    EL PAcCTO and the fight against organised crime

    The European Commission Programme aims to give technical assistance to countries to guarantee the safety of their citizens

    In Latin America there are 23 homicides for every 100 thousand inhabitants. This figure is double the amount for Africa and five times the amount recorded in Asia. What’s more, with only 9 per cent of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for more than 30 per cent of the violent killings committed worldwide each year.[i]

     

    Many of these are related to organised crime. This is one of the reasons why the sense of insecurity experienced by citizens has increased in recent years, making it a priority for these countries.

     

    For many years, different policies to combat organised crime were tried out in Latin America. Some were repressive and others more moderate (such as “mano dura” or “iron fist” and the converse “mano blanda” approach applied in Guatemala from 2007 to 2015), with the feeling that the problem was not effectively dealt with. The reasons are many and varied, but the periodical and short-term” nature of these policies may explain their ineffectiveness. One of the main lessons learned was the correct use of more global and long-lasting policies to identify and end insecurity in the region.

     

    This is where EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Assistance Programme Against Transnational Organised Crime) comes onto the scene. A European Commission programme with pioneering content as it is the first time the whole criminal justice chain is dealt with as a whole. More specifically, it focuses on three areas (police, judicial and fiscal and the prison system) with five transversal work focuses (cyber crime, corruption, human rights, gender and money laundering) and the inclusion of two intrinsically linked projects (AMERIPOL and another project managed by Interpol). It is, therefore, an ambitious and complex project which will try to tackled the problem of organised crime in the most global and effective way possible by providing technical assistance to 18 Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela).

     

    el-paccto

    The International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) and Expertise France (EF) coordinate the project along with two partners, the Italo-Latin American Institute (IILA) and the Camoes Institute.

     

    The Programme will facilitate peer learning, South-South cooperation and the transfer of best European practices, and will be focused on public administrations. To do this, it will have the support of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary, Ministry of the Interior via the Civil Guard, National Police and Prison Institutions, Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecutor and their analogues in France, Italy and Portugal.

     

    EL PAcCTO seeks to create concrete guides and tools for international action, approval and cooperation, both regionally and between Latin American countries and EU Member States. This way, it aims to eliminate border using legal and technical solutions that make Latin America a free and safe space united against organised crime.

     

    The Programme is trying to respond now to all of the urgent demands from the countries because the aim of the programme is to build a safer society which benefits everyone. This is why it is important to increase social awareness about the dangers of organised crime. It is a matter of great importance to guarantee people’s rights, freedom and lives.

     

    [i] Highest murder rates in the world by city (2016), World Atlas. Available at http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world.html

     

    María Jesús Martín is a Communication Technician at EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Assistance Programme Against Transnational Organised Crime) comes onto the scene. 

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  • 13 October 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Hospital medical records: much more than a storage space

    Representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Social Security and the Institute for Access to Public Information travelled to Madrid with the support of EUROsociAL+ to find out more in situ about the Spanish experience with managing hospital medical records

    When Margarita went to her Social Security hospital in El Salvador for her regular type 2 diabetes check-up, her medical record had disappeared. After hours of fruitless searching, she went in to see her doctor with a temporary (empty) file so that he could prescribe the appropriate medicines. Due to the lack of medical information, the doctor told her that he could not prescribe her glimepiride, one of the key drugs for treating her diabetes, until he had some accurate analyses of her medical condition. Margarita had to wait almost a month to get the result of the new clinical analyses, without receiving proper medication in the meantime. After nearly three months, the file was finally found, surprisingly, among the records of those who had died.

     

    Managing medical records properly is essential for improving the treatment of patients and the exercise of their rights, as well as the effective and efficient functioning of the healthcare system. However, this is a daunting task that requires confronting huge challenges, such as a lack of storage space or human and financial resources. At the same time, the patients’ personal details must be properly protected and the complex process of transferring the files from a paper format to an electronic one must be carried out in stages.

     

    Well aware of the pressing need to tackle this issue in El Salvador, the Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP), the Ministry of Health (MINSAL) and the Salvadoran Institute of Social Security (ISSS) have joined forces with the aim of building the foundations for a new era in the management of medical records in this Central American country’s public healthcare sector.

     

    The EUROsociAL+ Programme, funded by the European Commission and managed by the FIIAPP, is helping El Salvador with this process. As a first step, between 25 and 28 September, representatives of the three Salvadoran institutions visited Madrid to find out about the progress made and the challenges faced by Spain in this area. For a week, they were able to exchange experiences and lessons learned with the Ministry of Health, Equality and Social Services, the Castilla-La Mancha Health Service (SESCAM), the Community of Madrid’s Hospital Clí­nico San Carlos, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports General Sub-Directorate of State Archives and the Spanish Data Protection Agency. The visit included a tour of the Hospital Clí­nico San Carlos archives and the Central Archives of the State Administration in Alcalá in addition to a presentation of the lessons learned from the Tunisian electronic file project headed by the FIIAPP and funded by the European Union.

     

    This activity was the first step in promoting inter-institutional dialogue in El Salvador, advancing toward creating operating instructions and new regulations, and promoting cultural change, which is needed in order to improve the quality of healthcare in this Central American country.

     

    Borja Díaz Rivillas, Senior Officer of Democratic Governance. EUROsociAL+

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  • 28 September 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Ghana’s winding path towards Transparency and Anti-corruption

    To date Ghana does not have a Freedom of Information law but it has made some positive strides to ensure transparency and accountability

    EU funded Accountability, Rule of law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP)

    In the past years, Ghana has made some positive strides to ensure transparency and accountability within its governance reforms. Some concrete commitments include the development and roll out of a 10 year National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) as well joining in 2011 the Open Government Partnership.

     

    As part of these efforts, there is also the five-year EU funded Accountability, Rule of law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP) currently implemented by FIIAPP.  The objective of the programme is to contribute to current reform processes to reduce corruption and improve accountability, and compliance with the rule of law, particularly when it comes to accountability, anti-corruption and environmental governance. It does so through support key institutions, while at the same time increasing the ability of the public, civil society organizations and the media to hold government to account.

     

    On one hand the programme works with state institutions to improve and strengthen the services to report, prosecute and adjudicate corruption cases. On the other, it strengthens state institutions, civil society and the media to create the conditions for citizens to demand accountability from the government and report corruption cases.

     

    Against this backdrop, access to information is a critical stepping stone for anyone who wishes to hold the government to account. It is no surprise therefore that access to information has become a cornerstone of good governance and an important anti-corruption tool. Information is fundamental to make informed decisions. Information is also power. Where it is not freely accessible, corruption can thrive and basic rights might not be realised. People can hide corrupt acts behind a veil of secrecy. Those with privileged access to information can demand bribes from others also seeking it.

     

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    ARAP contributes to current reform processes to reduce corruption and improve accountability in Ghana

     

    Today, 28th of September, is the International Day for Universal Access to Information. Citizens and organizations across the world call on their leaders today to act upon the fundamental premise that all information held by governments and governmental institutions is in principle public and may only be withheld if there are legitimate reasons, such as typically privacy and security, for not disclosing it.

     

    The International Day for Universal Access to Information was declared just over two years ago by UNESCO. Not many know however that this UN initiative has its roots in Africa, and is an outcome of advocacy of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI).  This is a concerted effort to remind us all – regardless of our job and daily life – that accessing information held by government officials and institutions is a fundamental human right established under international Law, covered by Article 19 of the International Declaration of Human Rights  and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

     

    Over the past 10 years, the right to information has been recognized by an increasing number of countries, through the adoption of a wave of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. In 1990, only 13 countries had adopted national FOI laws, whereas there are currently more than 90 such laws adopted across the world.

     

    To date Ghana does not have a Freedom of Information law, despite it has been debated in the country for almost 20 years: the actual bill being drafted in 1999 and then reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and is currently in Parliament. There are however, positive signs from the government affirming that the bill will be approved in the coming year together with the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Corruption.

     

    Riccardo D’Emidio, Civic Education Expert – Accountability, Rule of law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP) 

  • 31 August 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Comprehensive commitment to transparency in Colombia

    The ACTUE-Colombia project seeks to strengthen transparency and integrity in the Colombian public and privates sectors and in civil society

    Colombia drags behind it the tragic figure of 218 thousand deaths and nearly six million displaced persons, all attributable to an armed conflict that lasted for over fifty years. A conflict that assails Colombian society at all levels, where one of the major factors responsible for the perpetuation of this context of violence has been corruption.

    Today Colombia is looking forward, placing all its hopes on an arduous peace process that must take into account all stakeholders in society. A key piece in advancing in this peace process is the commitment to transparency and prevention of corruption in both the country’s public institutions and private entities.

    Along these lines, the ACTUE-Colombia project was launched in 2014 as a response of the European Union to a request from the Colombian government for strengthening and implementation of public policies aimed at fighting corruption. This is a project funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP that works hand in hand with various Colombian public institutions, such as the Secretariat of Transparency, the Civil Service Department, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Mines, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Council of State, as the representative of the judiciary, among others.

    This project seeks to create a comprehensive approach in corruption prevention that will work from four strategic areas with special impact in the country:

    Public Integrity and Open Government: Creation of an open and transparent government through instruments such as the transparency and access to public information law, accountability, citizen participation, public ethics, whistleblower protection, among others. As expressed by Liliana Caballero, director of the Civil Service Administration Department, “for the government it is very important that citizens trust the State and the employees of public administrations, and citizens should have the security that they have access to all the information, that there is no longer any secrecy in any proceedings, in the budgets”. 

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    Sectoral Action: to foster integrity and transparency, it is also necessary to act in specific sectors such as judicial bodies, health, the extractive industries and a culture of integrity. 

     

      • Colombia’s Council of State is working to promote transparency, accountability and judicial ethics. To serve as a precedent, the Council of State on 29 June held a public hearing for accountability, which was the first time a judicial body had ever organised an accountability event in the country.

     

      • The extractive industry is one of the most important economic sectors in Colombia; in 2015 the extractive industry was responsible for 7.2% of the country’s GDP, and therefore it is important to keep this economic activity clear of networks of corruption. To accomplish this, implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) throughout the country is being incentivised, and there are currently commitments to implement this initiative by the 16 leading extractive companies in Colombia, which represent 80% of mining production.

     

      • In the health sector, ACTUE-Colombia has been supporting what some call “radical transparency” in the country’s pharmaceutical policy, with a view not only to guaranteeing right of use and access to a quality and transparent service but also to recovering citizens’ trust in the sector. To assure these objectives, initiatives have been developed that involve various stakeholders and donors, such as the Decalogue for Transparency and Integrity in the health sector, and tools for access to information have been implemented, such as the Medicamentos a un Clic [One-click Medicines], a web platform for health professionals, and the Termómetro de Precios de Medicamentos [Medicine Price Thermometer], among others.

     

      • Additionally, ACTUE-Colombia supports the commitment of the national government to promoting a cultural change, as there is wide recognition that the laws are important but insufficient. Along these lines, the Pedagogic Routes for Promotion of Transparency, Integrity and Safeguarding the Public Good have been implemented with the aim of raising awareness in school and university classrooms and in public institutions of their role in this cultural change in personal and institutional conduct.

     

    Citizen participation and the private sector: Both citizens and businesses are key players in the fight against corruption. To create a healthy, upstanding and aware society, it is necessary for them to be participants in the cultural, institutional and regulatory changes.

     

    • To promote the shared responsibility of business owners in the prevention of corruption, continuity has been given to initiatives that promote business ethics, self-regulation, bribery prevention and clear rules, such as the Registry of Private Companies Active in Compliance with Anti-corruption Measures (EACA) and the Handbook of Transparency and Anti-corruption Business Agreements.s

     

    • To engage civil society in the fight against corruption and the promotion of transparency and integrity, support has been given to actions such as strengthening of the National Citizen Council for Fighting Corruption, promotion of a “Friends of Transparency” network and improvement of accountability in citizen participation forums, as well as in NGOs, among others.

     

    Territorial Open Government: The change must take place at all political levels, from the national government to territorial governments. This area strengthens regional and local capacities in the implementation of the law on transparency; attention to citizens and management of corruptions risks; promoting citizen participation, social control and accountability. Additionally, the creation of a network of open governorates is being driven with a view to promoting exchange and peer-to-peer learning.

     

    The coordination work and the comprehensive approach of ACTUE is facilitating the steps being taken towards real change in Colombia, however ending the culture of corruption is a task that requires the commitment and joint work of all stakeholders in Colombian society.

  • 21 July 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    EU-ACT: fighting the “heroin routes”

    The project has a budget of €12 million and will cover 30 countries in four years to combat the destructive and massive heroin business

    The heroin routes that originate in Asia (Source: UNODC)

    For decades Afghanistan has been positioning itself as the primary international exporter of heroin, a deadly drug associated with the proliferation of organised crime and a massive business that moves billions of euros annually.

     

    Producing 4,800 tonnes of opium in 2016 and with more than 200,000 hectares under cultivation, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country is situated at the nerve centre of the zone known as the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran), the origin of most of the opiates consumed in Europe.

     

    In line with the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020, this week the EU-ACT Action Against Drugs and Organised Crime project was launched, in Brussels, as the third phase of an initiative that fights drug trafficking and organised crime in relation to two contexts:

     

    Supply reduction: this involves strengthening legal and transnational police cooperation to attack the major drug trafficking networks.

    Demand reduction: efforts are also aimed at prevention of drug consumption and improvement of drug addiction treatment.

     

    Both fronts are essential. As explained by the leader of the project, Thomas Carter, “they are two sides of the same coin: there needs to be equilibrium between repressive policies that pursue trafficking and organised crime and those focussed on demand reduction”.

     

    More than thirty countries

    From Afghanistan, the Heroin Route traditionally crossed the Balkans to reach Europe. However, pathways have multiplied and now pass through some thirty countries using various routes:

     

    Balkans Route: This links Afghanistan with Iran and then passes through Turkey. It is the shortest distance and the most direct overland route to European consumption markets. It has been used since the 1980s.

    Southern Route: in recent years, large heroin shipments loaded in the ports of Iran and Pakistan have attracted attention.

    Northern Route: from northern Afghanistan, heroin is sent to the large consumption markets of Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

    Caucasus Route: drugs produced in the Golden Crescent are transported from Iran to Turkey, passing through Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

    South Route: this passes through East Africa to reach the EU from the south.

     

    The project focusses on more than 30 beneficiary countries with very different needs and five strategic zones: Central Asia, Southern Caucasus, Ukraine, Asia and East Africa.

     

    Spanish Civil Guard colonel and project co-director Manuel Marión highlights the flexibility of the initiative: “One of the most acute needs of Kyrgyzstan is to train prosecutors and police in using special investigative techniques aimed at drugs, such as controlled deliveries”.

     

    Nonetheless, “it may happen that Tanzania needs to learn about the European experience with coastal surveillance, because the heroin arrives on ships” indicates Marión.

     

    Law enforcement and legal action are generally conducted at the national level, which makes it difficult to eradicate a global phenomenon like this one. Therefore the project places special emphasis on coordination between the police forces of all the drug-transit countries. Transnational and transregional cooperation is essential.

     

    A billion-euro business

    Tom Carter describes one of the main difficulties in eradicating heroin trafficking: corruption. “We’re talking about billions of euros, and the issue is that the closer it is to the market, the more money is involved and the more expensive the product is. For example, one kilo of opium may cost €2,000 in Afghanistan and over time, as it approaches Europe, this may reach €25,000 to €40,000”.

     

    “It’s a massive and invasive business. It moves so much money that it easily corrupts. A police officer or customs agent in any country outside Europe, for example in Central Asia or Africa, is very tempted when someone offers €200 to not open a truck”. It is a question of investing in development because “in a country undermined by corrupt officials in its institutions, the project becomes useless”, explains Carter.

     

    The key: influencing policies

    One of the main objectives of the project is to help the authorities and security forces of these countries to identify and pursue the major traffickers who handle large quantities of drugs.

     

    However, work is being done in parallel to find alternatives to prison, such as drug treatment. “We have neither the budget nor the time to fix everything, but we can contribute our experiences from the perspective of the EU. Perceptions must be changed so that people see a drug addict as a victim and not as a criminal”, explains Carter.

     

     

    For the next four years, FIIAPP will be managing this project, which has a budget of €12,000,000 funded by the European Commission, and will be implemented by experts from Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, Italy’s Carabinieri and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

  • 26 June 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Getting to know the FIIAPP: Management Systems and Procedures Programme

    A tool is being created for efficiency, transparency and work/life balance, Agustín Fernández told us

    We met Agustín Fernández who is responsible for the management systems and procedures project of the FIIAPP to tell us what he’s working on in his department.

     

    As he explained, “the FIIAPP is a large institution with a high level of international cooperation project management in addition to an institution that has always opted for innovation, therefore, it is at the forefront of Spanish public administrations”. To continue this performance, it needed a comprehensive digital transformation of its procedures.

     

    To this end, the Department of Management Systems and Processes has been working for more than a year to design a comprehensive information management tool, that besides providing daily work on managing projects, will contribute to the transparency of the FIIAPP and the work-life balance of employees.

     

    Transparency

    The FIIAPP is an institution that manages European Union funds from the contributions of taxpayers, therefore, as Augustine said, “we have to be able to be accountable to citizens”. Therefore, the new tool has a business intelligence component that enable all the up-to-date economic and financial information of projects to be collected immediately and make it available to both the FIIAPP and citizens in general.

     

    Efficient resource management

    In turn, this is a comprehensive economic-financial resources management tool that will make project paperwork and payments easier by digitising invoices.

    On the other hand, the volume of mobilisation of experts of the FIIAPP requires a flexible work system. Augustine explains which solution has been found for this problem: “We collected all these experts in a database that will facilitate receipts and invoices, in addition to having more precise monitoring of the project.”

    Balance

    Finally, another result that it is hoped this tool will achieve is a better work/life balance “as it will allow teleworking, i.e. we will be able to work from anywhere because the tool is going to be in the cloud. You will be able to work from home, while traveling, etc.” and this has an impact on workers’ wellbeing.

     

    It is hoped that this tool will be launched at the start of the year 2018. With this adaptation, not only is it expected to improve the FIIAPP’s work, but it can be used as a reference for many other institutions, both Spanish and foreign, working on international cooperation projects.

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