• 27 March 2014

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    “Cooperation gets you hooked because you are doing something useful”

    The FIIAPP mobilizes more than one thousand civil servants and other professionals each year to transmit the Spanish public administration model to the countries where it develops cooperation projects. Currently, thirteen of these experts are living in the places where the projects are being developed during the execution period. They are the resident advisors. We spoke with one of them, Pablo Ródenas.

    “How brave. Going with the entire family…”, one of his colleagues told him while saying goodbye. These are his last days in the FIIAPP headquarters in Madrid. Next destination: Ukraine. Just a few months ago he came back from Turkey. Pablo Ródenas has gotten “hooked” on cooperation on the ground. He started working as a project officer in the FIIAPP in 2007. Four years later, in 2011 and 2013, they sent him to Turkey as a resident advisor of the Foundation to coordinate a project for strengthening Turkish intermodal transport. He was taking part in what is known as twinning, one of the types of projects managed by the FIIAPP for transferring knowledge from Spanish public institutions to their counterparts in the countries where it works. His know-how and desire for change opened the doors of this experience to Pablo.

    “The work of an expert is to coordinate and organize projects. You have to adapt to the culture and try to transmit best practices, not impose them. People collaborate when their opinion is taken into account and they feel comfortable. That’s where you see good results”, he recounts.  The resident advisors do not train the local staff. That’s taken care of by the experts who travel periodically to the country. He openly admits that he’s doing well. That’s why he’s being sent now to Ukraine for another two years to manage an Intellectual and Industrial Property project. He leaves on the 31st of March with his wife and two children, a three-year-old girl and a seven-month-old boy. “Each child came to us with a project under its arm”, he jokes.

    What is it about cooperation that made you stay for two years in Turkey and now makes you want to go to Ukraine?

    What gets you hooked on cooperation is that you’re doing something useful. You’re helping the project get results. And you do it on the ground, without barriers, adapting yourself to the needs of the moment and of the project.

    Why was it necessary to strengthen the intermodal transport system in Turkey?

    This system seeks to achieve more efficient, economical and ecological modes of goods transport, whether by road, rail, sea or river.  That Turkey wants to strengthen this is a very good thing, because it will help it to develop its trade relations with Europe and reduce traffic congestion on its roads. Istanbul, for example, is a bridge between two continents and it suffers from a level of heavy traffic that we can’t even imagine.

    How was it working with Turkish institutions and professionals?

    On a personal level, it was very enriching. The people are lovely and hospitable. They always try to make your life easier. In administrative terms it was more complicated because it’s a very bureaucratic and slow-moving system.

    Now you’ll be working in Ukraine in intellectual and industrial property. What is the aim of the project?

    It’s legislative in nature and training-related. Seeing which laws they lack and which laws they have in order to improve them; how the professionals dedicated to this area must adapt to the international standards of the European Union and how to prosecute infringements.

    Does institutional cooperation have a future?

    A big one. Right now twinning is a clear example that institutional cooperation works very well and is very inexpensive. Also, the collaboration established between two countries, by not being linked to economic interest, goes beyond the contract. And the language spoken in the institutions is the same.

    Besides institutions and professionals, are there other beneficiaries of this cooperation?

    The population of the beneficiary country. For example if Turkey improves its transport system, this makes it more efficient and clean. Then, as it is more efficient, it will be less expensive, and this will be reflected in the prices of the products being imported or exported, and also in the environmental cost: if they take trucks off the road, there is less pollution.

    What does your family have to say about changing their lives again?

    The children are great about these things. The little one is hardly aware and the older one adapts right away. And my wife is a saint, although she an instigator as well. She’s been able to get a leave of absence from her job and knows that cooperation work on the ground fulfils me a lot.

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  • 07 March 2014

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    “Cooperation in drug policies is essential”

    Interview with the delegate of the National Drug Plan (PNSD), Francisco de Asís Babín.

    The FIIAPP has the support of different public institutions for the development of its drug policy projects at the international level. One of these is the PNSD, a key member in the leadership of COPOLAD, the joint programme between Latin America and the European Union for strengthening and exchanging experiences regarding these policies. Today at the FIIAPP headquarters, PNSD delegate Francisco de Asís Babín presented an overview of Spain’s policy in this area, which already has 30 years of experience under its belt. In addition to emphasizing that the work in social and occupational integration being done by Spain, which invests over 400 million euros annually in drug policies, is a source of “pride”, he shared some of his impressions of international cooperation in this sector.

    Is international cooperation useful for strengthening drug policy in terms of reducing supply and demand?

    It’s not only useful. It’s absolutely essential. For a long time, we lived in the utopia where some countries produced and others consumed, and each had to do its work to minimize the effect of its problem. Today this is a fallacy. There is no country that cultivates and doesn’t consume, and there is no country that, despite having consumption as its main problem, does not produce. Sharing knowledge on controlling supply and successful experiences and best practices for reducing demand is common sense and an ethical obligation.

    In the COPOLAD programme, what does the EU contribute to Latin America and vice versa?

    To highlight two things and be relatively concise, in Europe there has been a clear strengthening of the strategy and of knowledge of information in order to be the best when it comes to preventing drug trafficking and money laundering; and, reciprocally, I believe the European Union is in a position to drive a significant reinforcement of the function of observatory for the design of new policies. And these are realities that, in the case of COPOLAD, materialize in collaborative instruments, such as the library of documentation related to the drug problem, the reinforcement of the observatory itself and in other more specific work, such as that carried out by Germany involving alternative crops so that people who cultivate drugs for a living can find means of subsistence other than this.

    Does the diversification and extension of drug trafficking routes represent a current and future challenge?

    Yes. The more efficient the fight against criminal networks, the more probable it is that these become diversified and turn into an alternative route because the bad guys don’t want to lose their merchandise. The instruments aimed at depriving the bad guys of the power of this trafficking must be strengthened. If you close one channel, another opens; if you demonstrate to criminal networks that you are in a position to take away that hypothetical profit they were expecting, maybe they will start to reflect on whether or not these strategies have a future. I’m talking from a macro and almost a utopian standpoint, but what is clear is that it’s not enough to fight substance trafficking by physical means, but rather that it is necessary to work hard in relation to money laundering and other problems. The threat of new substances and Internet trafficking also exists. And this must be taken into account, because the battle we are fighting now will change in the future.

    What are the most effective drug policies: the ones that curb supply or demand?

    I would say that neither one without the other. It wouldn’t make any sense to wait until people fall into a drug problem and then treat it. It surely wouldn’t be ethical or logical to do it that way. At the same time that pure and simple repression per se doesn’t solve all the problems.

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  • 20 February 2014

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    “Hospital funding will be fair and sustainable”

    Interview with Hassen Ben Salem, manager of the “Commissioning of a medical-financial system in several pilot hospitals”project led by the FIIAPP in Tunisia.

    The hospital management in Tunisia is basing its information system on that used in Spain, whose development dates back to 1985. Tunisia does not have a unified patient information system, which has a detrimental effect on the efficiency of the services it provides, including lack of control over the patient conditions to patients being kept in hospital for longer than is required for their recovery. In Tunisia, each specialist keeps a separate medical record for each patient, meaning they are not informed of any other conditions she or he may suffer. This means that health spending is not controlled and that more money than necessary is invested in some services rather than others. However, there is a solution to this cause and effect scenario.

    That is why Tunisia presented the European Commission (EC) with its situation so that, through a twinning project, a second country with experience in this field might support them in their efforts to tackle the problem. The FIIAPP was finally chosen to lead the project, funded by the EC with 1.3 million euros and the Castile-La Mancha Healthcare System (SESCAM) as the collaborating body responsible for training its Tunisian colleagues in the system. The twinning manager in Tunisia, Hassan Ben Salem and Director of Studies and Planning of the Ministry of Health talked about different aspects of the project and the satisfaction of the Tunisian portfolio.

    Why did the Tunisian government decide to apply for this project?
    We started reforming our health system in the nineties to give hospitals more self-management powers. Since that time we have been developing a hospital information management system, but it was deficient in that it did not include medical information. This meant that we were unable to measure patients’ hospital stays in an efficient, centralised manner. This project aims to make an economic and medical evaluation of every day spent in hospital. It will initially be deployed as a pilot scheme in six hospitals and, if successful, it will be extended to other hospitals in the country.

    What is the main benefit of this twinning project?
    It will enable us to calculate costs per hospital and per disease. A hospital without a medical information system cannot control cost recovery or provide its patients with suitable information. This system will make us more efficient.
    Does this type of system mean lower hospital administration costs?
    There’s no guarantee we will spend less, but we will be able to rationalise our finances and spend better. In other words, hospitals will be funded fairly and sustainably and we will spend effectively.

    This project is based on hospital management in Spain. What is your opinion of this method?

    It has been a great opportunity for us to be able to use the Spanish system as a model because Spain went through the same or a similar problem as ours approximately 30 years ago. We are fortunate that Spain has agreed to this twinning and that we can benefit from this experience. We are taking this project very seriously and are open to Spanish suggestions. We are also very pleased with the cooperation between the
    FIIAPP and the SESCAM.

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  • 07 February 2014

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    The “vicious circle” in drug demand reduction

    Interviews with three experts in the field of Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) in Latin America and the European Union

    COPOLAD, the drug abuse prevention programme in Latin America and the European Union led by FIIAPP, is holding the LA-EU Research Networks conference “Evidence-based public policies: progress and challenges”this week in Madrid for the purpose of promoting and facilitating contacts and cooperation between the researchers in attendance. Three of them, Mayra Hynes, member of the Inter American Commission for Drug Abuse Control (CICAD – OAS), Augusto Pérez, a Colombian researcher with the Latin American Network of Drug Researchers (REDLA), andRonald Simon, of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), talk in this interview about the context and challenges to be confronted currently in the field of research on DDR in Latin America and the European Union.

    What are the main obstacles to achieving Drug Demand Reduction?

    Marya Hynes: In Latin America and the Caribbean, it’s knowing and understanding what to work on to implement suitable public prevention policies. Also knowing how to evaluate the policies to detect whether they’re working or not.

    Augusto Pérez: The lack of government policies. A president comes to power and says one thing, then the next one says another and paralyzes everything that came before. This has happened many times in South American countries. Another problem is lack of interest when it comes to investing in research and evaluation. A vicious circle exists: if we don’t evaluate, we don’t know what works.

    Ronald Simon: In the European Union, we’re in a somewhat better position in this sense, but we also have a funding problem, especially in resources for prevention. I believe that public interest in this field has declined lately.

    What comes first: the demand for drugs or the supply?

    MH: They’re always going to be related. And what we’re seeing, for example, in Europe and the United States, is that if you limit access to a substance and you don’t offer addicts an alternative, like treatment or social support to prevent relapses, the problem does not go away and it turns into something worse.

    AP: In the case of Colombia, our problem is drug trafficking. We are producers. There are 300,000 consumers of illegal substances who need treatment, but, considering that we have over 40 million inhabitants, this is not extremely worrisome; the fact that the guerrillas are financing their activities with drug money is. There we have a problem of criminal gangs.

    RS: Without demand, there is no supply; and without supply there is no demand. It’s a market. What we have to do is limit access to the substances.

    What can LA contribute to the EU, and vice versa, in the reduction and prevention of drug demand?

    RE: Europe is made up of different countries with different experiences and historical pasts, in addition to having enjoyed an excellent position in the last 15 years with money from Europe for drug research, which has enabled us to develop work tools. Our Latin American colleagues can study them and see if they can adapt them, or tell us we’re completely nuts (he jokes, laughing). And in the other direction, I believe we can observe how they work and look at how we work from a distance and with a critical eye. If it works, it’s a bilateral process.

    AP: We have different cultures and forms of organization, but, in any case, we can share our data, and try to reach conclusions and construct theories together.

    MH: To start to understand what our differences are. There is great diversity in drug use.

    Is this meeting being organized by COPOLAD a good opportunity to share this knowledge?

    AP: Of course.

    MH: Yes, and I also think they’re paying attention, listening and responding to what was discussed in previous events.

    RE: Yes, this is the right path. They are willing to listen and react to these discussions, and they are developing relationships of cooperation between people.

    What are the main challenges in Drug Demand Reduction?

    MH: In addition to what has already been mentioned, detecting the emergence of new drugs.

    AP: Also keeping the decision-makers in this field informed. The better informed they are, the more money they will invest in research in this field.

    RS: Developing additional evidence-based prevention measures, finding approaches, establishing points in common and rethinking things together.

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  • 03 February 2014

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    Pedro Flores, Director of the FIIAPP

    "I hope that the FIIAPP will continue in its role as an expert organisation that specialises in execution of international cooperation projects with government bodies"

    Pedro Flores has been the director of FIIAPP since October 2013. In this interview he explains the Foundation’s goals for the coming months and his personal experience in the role.

    –          How would you define the FIIAPP?

    It is a public organisation with two closely linked areas of activity. On the one hand, we collaborate to the development of the countries where we work. We do this through international cooperation projects that improve the functioning of public institutions in these countries; encouraging integration and information sharing with their neighbouring countries; so that their legal frameworks, systems and public procedures become more efficient and comply with the main international conventions: and to foster the development of public policies. Examples of our activities include adapting administrative proceedings to improve citizen services, amending the law to comply with international requirements and improving the efficiency in public health systems, social protection, security, justice, transport and infrastructures, among others.

    On the other hand, we enhance the international image of the Spanish Government and by extension, that of Europe. Many of our projects include exporting knowledge, best practices and models of excellence from Spain’s public sector. Our work in this area, falls within the auspices of Spanish foreign policy and allows us to strengthen Spain’s international image. At the same time, the FIIAAPP is currently one of Europe’s main international cooperation operators, which is why we work along the lines marked by European foreign policy and in accordance with the main international pacts to which the European Union is a signatory.

    –          What are the main challenges facing the FIIAPP in the months to come?

    The organisation has grown over the years and is now working in numerous sectors. We operate in 90 countries, which presents a real challenge to the FIIAPP workforce. The first challenge is to improve planning to adapt this growing level of activity to Spanish government interests and to include this in the main international agreements signed by Spain and by the European Union.
    On the other hand, the growth of our activities portfolio requires investment in new technologies, which are being made to cut the time the institution needs to do routine tasks.

    The growing number of countries in which we work also requires a larger network of collaborators with different government bodies to better coordinate all these activities. We are also going to step up collaboration with international bodies such as the World Bank, the IDB and United Nations Agencies.

    –          Where will you be working in 2014?

    In terms of geographical areas, we give priority to activities in Latin America, a region where we have an extensive portfolio of activities. This priority is defined in our by-laws and is also governed, as I have already mentioned, by Spanish foreign policy guidelines. Other priority areas will be West Africa and the Sahel, the Middle East and North Africa and Europe and Central Asia.

    By sectors of activity, we will continue with those in areas in which we are already working, such as governance and strengthening public administration, security, justice and the fight against corruption, social policies, transport and infrastructure management, the environment and energy.

    We must increase our activities in areas such as tourism, climate change and natural disaster prevention, and e-administration, matters that are being looked at by different Spanish government agencies and international bodies to set priorities.

    Project assessment will also be a constant. One of FIIAPP’s hallmarks should be that it devotes its resources to programmes that work, which is why we need proven evidence of their performance. An Assessment Unit has recently been created in FIIAPP and measuring the impact of our activities will be one of the aspects included in this, starting with the most significant. In addition to this, we will give firm support to the Cooperación Española (Spanish Cooperation) assessment policy in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

    –          Professional and personal challenges of your new position.

    I think it is very important that we should continue to boost the image of Spain and its institutions abroad. I am also determined to raise the profile of the work done by the FIIAPP both in Spain and beyond our borders.
    Personally, I believe that the work we do at the FIIAPP is very gratifying, because we build Marca España and because at the end of the day our work improves the lives of many people in our partner countries. I aspire to this sentiment being shared by everyone who works at our institution.

    Although it is obvious, one of our priorities is to beaccountable for the funds received by the organisation and to provide clear information about our activities at all times.

    I hope that FIIAPP will continue in its role as an expert organisation that specialises in execution of international cooperation projects with government bodies. We will continue to give much importance to staff training and collaborative relationships with all Spanish government bodies.

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  • 24 January 2014

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    Transparency is at the heart of public management

    Interview with the Chairman and General Manager of the Chilean Council for Transparency

    According to the ‘International Transparency’ organisation, Chile is ranked 23rd in the list of the least corrupt countries and the Council is aiming to keep moving up the scale. The organisation’s chairman Jorge Jaraquemada and its General Manager Raúl Ferrada visited the FIIAPP this week to secure support from the EUROsociAL Programme in the areas of transparency and the fight against corruption.

    Mr Jaraquemada. How important are transparency policies and access to information in Latin America?

    I view transparency and access to public information from the point of view of State reform and modernisation. They are very important tools for restoring credibility to and for dealing with the illegality found in many Latin American institutions, particularly in political institutions.

    Where is Chile with regard to the rest of Latin America in the fight against corruption?

    I believe that Chile’s experience of transparency and the right to information is on the right track. Both Chile and Uruguay are in quite a strong position in Latin America in terms of low levels of corruption: Chile is ranked 23rd by International Transparency of a total of 180 countries measured. What worries me is that there has been some stagnation. What I mean is that when I look at the graphs for the last 10 years, Chile has stayed in more or less the same position. That could be worrying. I hope that transparency or the mass exercise of the right to information will make a further contribution to giving Chile a better position.

    Mr Ferrada. One of the Chilean Transparency Council’s star tools is the Transparency Portal of the State of Chile, supported by FIIAPP and the Fundación CEDDET through EUROsociAL. What is its function?
    The ‘Transparency Portal of the State of Chile’ project addresses an essential aspect of information access policies, which is that of citizen participation. This should be part of the DNA of all public bodies but has so far been very difficult to introduce and put into practice through successful experiences. We want to use technologies to create a permanent channel, open to citizens, where we can propose themes and get feedback or where citizens themselves can propose themes.

    Do citizens respond?

    We don’t believe that people should have to take to the streets when their indignation and rage boils over. That is why we must have permanent channels through which citizens are able to express their opinions and needs because, although it may seem obvious to us, this is not the case in many public actors who are there to serve the community. Politicians do not represent ideologies, they are public managers that must serve the community. People tell us they want public action in very specific areas: health, education and housing. They’ve been telling us this for five years. These are the matters that concern people most.

    What do you do with the information you receive from the public?

    (Jorge Jaraquemada answers)

    If we analyse the information in terms of requests and demands and look at social conflict in Chile over the last three years, there is perfect coherence in terms of anticipation. In other words, the Law on Transparency, in terms of the niches in which people demand information, is an indicator of social unrest that erupts months later. This is what happened in the areas of education, the environment and regional communities that occurred in a couple of the country’s regions where there were outbreaks of violence.

    (Raúl Ferrada concludes)

    We have a thermometer that shows us when temperatures are higher than normal in certain areas. This is another reason for explaining to public managers that transparency is not a problem. Transparency and access to information are at the heart of public management and are very useful for public managers. It is a very good investment. We are sure of it.

    Enrique Martínez. Head of communication at EUROsociAL

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