30 May 2019
We interviewed Jérémie Pellet, general director of cooperation agency Expertise France, FIIAPP's partner in numerous projects and a member of the Practitioners' NetworkJérémie Pellet, director general de Expertise France
What is Expertise France? What is its job?
Expertise France is the French public international cooperation agency. It was created in 2015 by merging several operators together. It works in four major fields; in the field of democratic governance: economic and financial; in the field of peace, security and stability; in the field of human development: education, health, social protection; and in the field of sustainable development: climate, agriculture and energy.
Why is the joint work of institutions like the FIIAPP and EF so important?
Expertise France and the FIIAPP are institutions that share the same objective: to support public policies and support the development of the countries of the south with a good governance plan. So, we already work together on many projects. Nowadays, Expertise France and the FIIAPP share a dozen projects. We strive to be an allied actor in Europe. So, we seek to collaborate with agencies like us, capable of mobilising expertise in different countries, particularly public expertise, our main reason for being, both of the FIIAPP, in Spain and Expertise France, in France.
What are the advantages and drawbacks of working together?
To start with, the advantages of working together are that our approach is not only national but also European, with different ways of working and, obviously, this is extremely advantageous, since we require European funding, and theEuropean Commission is very interested in international development agencies working together.
The drawbacks are, essentially, coordination difficulties because everyone has their way of working and procedures. One thing we can certainly do to improve is to work on this issue to make coordination more fluid and effective.
How do you think France contributes to these projects? And Spain?
Both France and Spain have numerous cooperation projects, which account for an important part of their international activity and their diplomatic activity in matters of international cooperation. They have worldwide geographies whose priorities are not necessarily the same due to historical differences. Spanish international cooperation focuses mainly on Latin American policies, whereas French international cooperation is more involved in helping the poorest African countries mainly in West Africa. However, this does not alter the fact that we now face global climate, security and development issues that need support in different parts of the world. Ultimately, we complement each other because we each contribute what we know best as well as our cooperation expertise.
How valuable is the European cooperation network, the Practitioners’ Network, to European cooperation?
Practitioners’ Network is a body that brings together European Union state agencies involved in delegated and cooperation fund management. It is now the recognised interlocutor for the European Commission. The proof is that we and the Commission have entered into a very important association agreement between the Commission and each Member State agency, to make these agencies the primary delegated management agents for the European funds. It is now an acknowledged body with real technical competence, which is obviously valuable for the agencies as well as for the European Commission, which has a partner to which it can address such issues.
I believe that our main value and the work we have already undertaken and that which still needs to be accomplished is to further strengthen coordination between the agencies in the Practitioners’ Network. Because we will be effective, among ourselves, and will be capable of showing the European Commission that working with Member States’ agencies is an added value.
In my opinion, the European Commission expects us to be able to show that we are really effective, which is why I believe that the network of the Practitioners’ Network should continue to develop good practices, standardising agencies and establishing new procedures.
16 May 2019
Rafael Ríos, coordinator of A-TIPSOM: the fight against people trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria, explains how he has been adapting to the country, what his daily routine is like, and what it is like to work as a FIIAPP expatriate.
How long have you been in Nigeria? How have you adapted to this country?
I arrived on 16 July 2018. When you arrive in a new country, as you can imagine, it is not always easy. I remember hearing about other projects, from other colleagues who had been in or were in other countries, who said “the beginning is always the hardest”. For me this has been a bit simpler, or less complicated, and I’ll tell you why. In this country we already had the embassy staff, and they helped us with everything from the outset, arriving in the country, accreditations, looking for accommodation, the office, etc. We spent almost four months in a small office that they kindly lent us until we were able to move. I wish you could count on this kind of support every time you started a project.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The hardest part was perhaps the second week. During the first week everything is frenetic, you have so many things on your plate… But the second week was like coming back down to Earth. That’s when I really started to realize where I was, and the step that I’d taken. Such a long project with so many important challenges. The easiest thing was perhaps meeting people, dealing with the Nigerians, who I think are happy people who enjoy their country and who, in general, welcome newcomers quite readily.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
No, it’s not. Belonging to the National Police gives you opportunities like this, discovering other countries and destinations, doing what you enjoy and what you know best. Previously I’d done different jobs in African countries, on short-term missions in Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, as well as in Europe, in Italy to be precise.
In light of this, is this proving to be very different to your previous missions?
The concept behind this mission is quite different. This one is long-term and involves a permanent deployment in another country plus working as an expert for FIIAPP . It’s something else entirely, and it’s a big professional challenge for me, since what we are trying to achieve with this project is very alluring, and at the same time very ambitious .
What is your work like, your daily routine?
Honestly, I think it’s not that different. Here, because of the hot weather, you get up and start work quite early. We get to the office, have meetings, go out to the different places we need to visit as part of the project. Usually we have lunch at the office and return home in mid-afternoon.
Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
As I said, it is a job that requires a lot of contact with one’s counterparts,which means you are often out of the office, and I find that quite interesting.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid?
Great! I would say that, in addition to having a great professional relationship, we talk every day, we share ideas, etc. We have even created bonds that are enabling us to achieve better results in the project, of that I am sure.
And with your colleagues in Nigeria?
The same. Several months on, the team in the field has been growing, with Nigerian personnel, which helps us a lot to understand their way of working, what they’re like, their customs.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
It is very positive so far. I think it is helping me to understand how an institution like FIIAPP copes with so many projects and with the scope of the work it does. The training, its structure and its values are enabling me to acquire knowledge. When you belong to an institution like the National Police, sometimes you focus so much on your professional life that you do not realize how work is done elsewhere, so the project is helping to train me both professionally and personally .
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Well, I could tell you several, but I’ll just say that I like saying good morning and learning new words in a dialect called Hausa, and in the building where we work I usually see two young people who like to teach me words like that: good morning, let’s go, go ahead… and it makes them laugh when they hear me pronounce them… Inakwana, which means good morning, is part of the day-to-day.
04 April 2019
We interviewed Pansy Tlakula, the High Commissioner in South Africa for the right of access to information, during the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, in which EUROsociAL+ also participated.Pansy Tlakula
How important is the right of access to public information for human rights and democracy?
Access to information is the key to enjoying other rights. You cannot enjoy social and economic rights without the right of access to information; and, moreover, it is also important for the right to vote. For all these reasons, it is fundamental to the human rights system.
From the historical point of view, what has been the importance of this right for South African citizens?
In this case, it is important to bear in mind the country’s sad history with apartheid and racial segregation. That is why, in 1994, when the people became free, one of the first things done was to make sure that the “culture of secrecy” ended. One of the first laws we adopted after gaining freedom promoted access to information.
Can we highlight any relevant cases relating to public information that have been historically important in South Africa?
I think the most important case in this regard occurred last year. Several civil society organisations had asked the political parties to disclose the source of their funding and, initially, they refused. Then, an organisation called Right2Know took the case to court, which determined that the right of access to information is fundamental to the right to vote. In order for citizens to exercise the right to vote, they must be able to access information about the financing of political parties.
EUROsociAL+, the programme financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, has presented its experience in supporting the Transparency Network in Latin America (RTA) at the conference. In Africa, there is a plan to create a similar network. How do you think the creation of a similar network on the continent would be beneficial?
I think the network is very important and the collaboration between countries in Africa and Latin America is significant because it is South-South cooperation. For example, these past couple of days, when we held our first meeting on establishing the African Network of Information Commissioners, our colleagues from the Latin American network explained how they had established their network.
Let’s talk about gender and the right of access to information: How important is this right for women in South Africa and throughout Africa?
I think it is very important for women throughout the world, for example, if we look at the rights related to reproductive and sexual health; in this case, women and girls cannot benefit from these rights if they do not have enough information. If they knew about it, they would be able to face the specific health challenges that these issues entail.
And some of them can be easily resolved by giving women access to information, so this year, at the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, we gave a presentation on the importance of access to information for vulnerable groups: on how this impacts women and people with disabilities. Personally, I believe that access to information has a positive impact on everyone, including vulnerable groups.
21 March 2019
Today, 21 March, is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. To celebrate this date, we are having a chat with Lucía Molo, technician of the “Living without discrimination” project.Lucía Molo en Marruecos
Today is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. What do you think international days are for?
One of the objectives of the initiative promoted by the United Nations to mark international days in the calendar is to draw attention and raise public awareness to a problem. These are issues where there is still much work to be done, which is why they are the perfect excuse to remind society and governments that they need to act.
What is racial discrimination?
According to European Union regulations, direct racial discrimination exists whena person is treated less favourably based on their race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin than another person in a comparable situation. It also recognises that discrimination can exist when people are treated differently in similar situations, but also when they are treated identically in different situations. This latter form of discrimination is called “indirect” because it is not the treatment that differs, but its effects, which affect different people with different characteristics in different ways.
Every day there are discriminatory incidents due to racial or ethnic origin, affecting refugees and immigrants, the Roma community, as well as other vulnerable groups. If we stop, for example, to read job vacancies, we are certain to find one which clearly specifies a preference for candidates of Spanish origin, thus excluding the foreign population.
How engaged do you think the population is with this issue? More or less than before?
I believe that society, generally speaking, does not intentionally or voluntarily discriminate against people of another race or ethnicity. Factors such as ignorance, fear of differences, prejudice and misinformation lead to discrimination. But I also believe that these situations arise as a result of insufficient political involvement that should, in my view, focus more efforts on prevention, public awareness and information.
In fact, the United Nations has acknowledged the rise in nationalist populism, with extremist ideologies of racial supremacy and superiority, thus producing more racist movements. In the latest UN Special Rapporteur’s report on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance of August 2018, she explains the contemporary use of digital technology in the propagation of neo-Nazi intolerance and related forms of intolerance. It points to recent trends and statements that exalt Nazism and other practices that contribute to the promotion of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.
How can discrimination be prevented?
First, the right to non-discrimination must be supported by legal safeguards that help to prevent this type of situation. In addition, information, training and awareness actions in interculturality and tolerance ethics must be reinforced . This goes for both citizens and government employees.
On the other hand, it is important that there be public policies that ensure non-discrimination. Spain has launched different actions in this regard: the creation of a Spanish Observatory on Racism and Xenophobia (OBERAXE) in the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Social Security, the creation of the figure of delegated prosecutors for hate crimes and discrimination within the General Council of the Judiciary, the implementation of a system to gather incidents related to hate crimes and discrimination in the Ministry of the Interior and the Assistance Service for Victims of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination of the Ministry of the Presidency, Parliament Relations and Equality .
Is FIIAPP working on this issue? How?
The FIIAPP works directly in the fight against racial discrimination through a delegated cooperation project in the Kingdom of Morocco called “Living together without discrimination: an approach based on human rights and the gender dimension” funded by the Emergency Trust Fund for Stability in Africa of the European Union. The FIIAPP and the AECID participate in its management . It also collaborates with Spanish and Moroccan institutions such as OBERAXE, the Delegate Ministry in charge of Moroccans Resident Abroad and Migration Issues and the National Human Rights Council of Morocco.
What is the purpose of this project?
The main objective of the project is to reinforce instruments and public policies aimed at preventing and combating racism and xenophobia towards the migrant population in the Kingdom of Morocco. It seeks to strengthen the capacities of key institutional and non-state actors (civil society, media, private sector …) in the implementation of initiatives to prevent racism and xenophobia towards the migrant population, through accompaniment, exchange and transfer of knowledge.
Any reflection on the subject to make us all think?
One of the reflections that emerged repeatedly during the workshop organised by the EUROsociAL + programme on human mobility on 19 March was that everything looks different when we put ourselves in the shoes of the other person .
I like the idea raised by the NGO Movement against Intolerance that there is only one race: the human race. If people began to see each other as sisters and brothers, I am sure that it would not be long before we no longer had reason to mark this day.
21 February 2019
"FIIAPP looks after the expatriate, not only in the strict sense of the working conditions, but in the support we are given and in the feeling of closeness experienced"
Eva María Picos, coordinator of the Capacity Building project undertaken by the Macedonian Postal Service, tells us how she has gone about adapting to the country, what her daily routine is like and what it is like working as an FIIAPP expatriate.
How long have you been living in Macedonia? How have you adapted to this country? Is it very different from Spain?
I arrived in Macedonia, specifically its capital city, Skopje, on 3 December, 2018; the very day on which the contract was signed and, therefore, on which the project kicked off. Winters are cold, summers are hot, there is a river running through the city… I still have not had much time to get to know the country well, but it may very well be that there are other places more beautiful than its capital. As far as the natural beauty of the country is concerned, I am aware that it has some beautiful scenery given its Balkan setting. I find the Macedonians to be Mediterranean in character; they are great pranksters, like to go out, like meal-centred get-togethers, etc.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
What I have found most difficult is to adapt to the weather and the timetable. The easiest thing for me has been to get used to the Macedonian character, as it is very similar to ours. Communication has not been a problem as almost everyone speaks English here. The food is also similar to Spanish food.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain? If not, is it proving to be different to any previous ones?
I lived in Ireland for a year when I finished university. This experience is different because while there I did not work in an area related to my degree; the main goal was to learn English. What both experiences have in common is having to leave your home environment and making you adapt to different ways and customs.
What is your work like and your daily routine? Is your routine very different to the one you had in Spain?
It is totally different, simply because you have to learn to cope in a country that is not your own, which greatly conditions your daily routine. In Spain my work was more office centred and did not have such a relational dimension. The project involves many actors and requires constant communication, meetings, numerous and varied tasks, ranging from finding locations for events, study visits and missions to drafting reports. Moreover, this is a living, flexible project that requires constant revision and adaptation, not to mention smooth communication to maximize results.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team Madrid? And with your colleagues in Macedonia?
The relationship with the FIIAPP team has been very good and close from the start. There is daily contact via email and calls when required by the project. Indeed, it is quite funny, because although there is no physical proximity as expatriation is involved, the feeling does not differ that much from when you are working side by side. I have only good things to say about each and every one of the people that I have come across so far on my as yet brief FIIAPP journey.
There are two aspects to my relations with my Macedonian colleagues: The Macedonian Postal Service, which is the project beneficiary, and the FIIAPP team, made up of the translator, the assistant and myself. Right from the off I felt accepted as one of them. They quickly integrated me into their daily routine and work practices.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
It is a great opportunity for me, both personally and professionally. Indeed, it came up unexpectedly, but turned out to be quite a challenge. I think that this type of experience involves a big sacrifice in the sense that you miss your family and friends, but workwise you learn a lot.
For family reasons I have lived through expatriation situations close up and not all of them are like the FIIAPP experience. It must be said in this sense that FIIAPP looks after the expatriate, not only in the strict sense of the working conditions, but in the support we are given and in the feeling of closeness experienced.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Well the truth is that every day is an anecdote in itself as I’m still fully immersed in the process of adaptation. From the snowfall that caught me off guard and without proper clothing, to the day I wanted to make a lentil stew and bought what I thought was chorizo, but which turned out to be a local sausage. I’ve also seen myself having soup and eating a type of coleslaw salad at 11 a.m. in the morning (lunchtime in Macedonia, when what I really fancied was coffee with churros!).
07 February 2019
Shamima Muslim, ARAP project specialist, reflects in this interview on the role of the media when they raise issues of corruption, particularly in the case of GhanaShamima Muslim
As a media worker and specialist on the ARAP project (Ghana’s Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme), funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, do you think that the media address the issue of corruption?
We have been reflecting on this since I started in the media in 2008. Even before that, corruption has always been a key issue, especially at election time. All politicians and political parties who campaign and come to power always have it in the spotlight, they fight against corruption in their public speeches and insist on the need to be accountable. So we recognise that it exists.
And do you think that the media is sensitive to corruption?
We have not given our best. Well, maybe we have given our best, but the best has not been enough. Since the media is a news industry, when a big new corruption issue appears, everything is immediately told, but then people go on with their lives and their problems and they have already forgotten by the following news story. I think we have to develop a culture that is slightly different from the culture of the cursor and Google, which is what we have been doing.
So, do you think that the media should play a more active and permanent role in corruption issues?
The media have to do more than they are doing right now because both the media and the people who work in them should be the eyes of society.
The mass media is a powerful tool for socialisation. If we use them efficiently, we will make citizens aware of many things: cases of fraud, theft, contract inflation, etc., all of the issues that reduce public resources and prevent State players from making the proper investments in social services.
But we need support, for example, by targeting certain key influencers in the media and making them part of this process of holding leaders accountable. Newscasters who present the morning magazine programme, professionals who do night programmes, professionals who give the news, etc. You need them to be part of the process. And so we get an ally who has the power of the microphone and who is able to ask the important questions, thanks to the point of view they have acquired.
What role can social media play in this awareness?
Information, information, information. Social networks are the future, but we must also remember that not everyone is on them. Internet access is still very expensive in most of Africa and virtually non-existent in some communities. So maybe you are not able to use social networks for an appropriate general mobilisation of society, of citizens, from different economic strata. Especially if you want general collective action.
But even so, social networks are very useful: we have seen what has happened in Ghana. We have seen campaigns on social networks that have forced the Government to change certain policies. When the government wants to introduce a new policy and we say it’s a bad idea … There was a case where the government said, “If you do not pay for your television licence, you will have to go to court.“ All this brought a great public uproar: it was a campaign organised purely on social networks. Influencers and young people on social media protested and protested. In a few hours, or a day or two, it was announced that this policy was not going to be implemented.
So social networks are a powerful tool to mobilise a certain group of people who share the same ideas, who are a little more informed. There are some people who are influencers on social networks and who, when they open discussions on their walls, generate arguments.
What do citizens achieve with all this?
If the media play their role, we, the citizens, will be able to force our leaders to be accountable, because they know that the media will always be watching them until things are done well.