• 21 November 2019

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “Forensic science helps guarantee and improve the quality of police investigations”

    We interview Jesús Agudo Ordóñez, leader of the Twinning project “Forensic training towards advanced examination methods in Turkey” and expert adviser with the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Science, who talks to us about forensic science and what it contributes to this project being carried out in Turkey.

    Jesús Agudo, project líder del proyecto ‘Formación forense hacia métodos de examen avanzados en Turquía'

    What is the main objective of this Twinning project?

    The objective is to strengthen and improve the methods used in forensic laboratories in Turkey. To do this, arrangements have been made for Spanish forensic science specialists to collaborate with their Turkish colleagues.

    The Spanish forensic science specialists basically come from three sources: firstly, the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences, occasionally joined by medical examiners from legal medicine institutes; secondly, the Criminology Laboratory of the Civil Guard, and lastly the Forensic Science Laboratory of the National Police.

    They’re all forensic science laboratories, one of them being civil, which is our laboratory belonging to the Ministry of Justice, and the other two, the National Police and Civil Guard laboratories, coming under the Ministry of the Interior.

    What do you think this project can bring to Turkey?

    This project will help Turkey above all to standardise the methods used in investigations in forensic laboratories. It’s true that Turkish forensic laboratory technicians have a very high level, probably comparable with most European countries. Perhaps the most important added value that Spanish experts can provide is precisely — and this is one of the aims of the project — that of making the techniques used in Turkish laboratories uniform and standardised and ensuring they are certified.

    What activities will be carried out to achieve these objectives?

    Forty activities are planned over two years. Practically every week there is some activity and some form of travel by the technicians of the institute or the laboratory of the Police or the Civil Guard. These technicians usually travel in pairs and we organise seminars and training cycles in Turkey, attended by Turkish technicians from the same field as the Spaniards sent there.

    At the National Institute of Toxicology we’re dedicated to forensic science from, shall we say, a human perspective. We don’t have engineers here, but all the specialists here are experts, graduates or postgraduates in biomedical sciences. Therefore, our activity is focused on the study of crime in general, including those crimes that have occurred and their effects at an organic level, at the level of tissues, in short at the level of people.

    The National Police and the Civil Guard also work in this field, but perhaps what makes them different from us is that they provide training on other, more police-specific sciences such as ballistics, sound and image engineering, voice recording and digital recording of crimes that don’t so much affect the person, the body or the human, but tend to be more technological, more “cyber”-related. So, there are training plans for all these areas.

    How does having specialised forensic experts help countries?

    Forensic science helps guarantee and improve the quality of police investigations for crime prevention and prosecution. Police sciences are fundamental; they are the backbone of society to maintain order and justice. Specifically, the National Institute of Toxicology belongs to the Ministry of Justice, and for a society to have the existence of order and justice at its core is fundamental for the development of interpersonal relationships and of all kinds of professional and business initiatives.

    Therefore ultimately what we’re talking about is ensuring countries’ prosperity and wealth and making sure their citizens feel safe in their dealings with one another and in initiating projects with economic impact that contribute to the enrichment and growth of their country.

    What added value does FIIAPP bring to the project?

    FIIAPP is a structural element of this cooperation, without whose involvement it would be very difficult to carry out this type of project. Ultimately what the people who take part in these projects contribute, both the beneficiaries, Turkey in this case, and the collaborators, Spain, is scientific know-how, in this case forensic science know-how. But it’s essential to have a body to perform organised administrative and economic tasks. So FIIAPP is the necessary body, the cement needed to make the project cohere. Without FIIAPP, projects would not have much future or make much sense.

    Do you think international cooperation is important for receiving knowledge and contributing it to other countries?

    For the peripheral countries of Europe, for countries that have applied for EU membership, for other countries that may not yet be eligible to apply or haven’t applied but are in its orbit, I think it’s very important because it’s about propagating the way of doing things we have in Europe.

    It’s a way that’s widely recognised in the field of forensic science and that is compared internationally with other areas of influence such as the US and Asia, and it’s important that countries close to Europe or looking to be part of it in the future start adopting these kinds of methods, getting used to working with quality criteria, standardisation of methods so that when the day comes for closer approximation or full membership, everything will be that much easier and the people working in those countries will have learnt how to work in the European context.

    Constant communication between the institutions of the member country, Spain, and the beneficiary country, Turkey, is important, with FIIAPP as a coordinator. It’s also important not to lose touch with the European Commission which is driving and funding this project. It would also be a good idea to maintain, as we have done on occasion, a close relationship with them to help solve those little things that may be small obstacles and try to improve day-to-day operation of the projects.

  • 07 November 2019

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: Pilar Fernández

    "You see things with a different perspective, what cooperation looks like in the field, and it all adds up - you learn and expand your way of seeing things"

    Photograph by Pilar Fernández

    Pilar Fernández, coordinator of the ICRIME project, tells us about her experience as a FIIAPP expatriate, her adaptation to El Salvador and her daily routine in the country.

    How long have you been in El Salvador? What has your adaptation to this country been like? 

    I landed in San Salvador on June 4, so I have spent more than five months coordinating the ICRIME project, which is funded by the European Union, AECID and the Central American Integration System (SICA). In the project, managed by the FIIAPP, the main objective is the reinforcement of investigation units, forensic institutes, and criminal investigation networks and procedures in the SICA.

    As for the adaptation, it has not been very difficult since previously I had lived for a few periods of 3-4 months in San Salvador, between 2013 and 2017. Therefore, I already knew the city, how to move around the country, who to call to take a taxi, where to go shopping, what to visit, etc. In addition, friends here, both Salvadorans and Spaniards, always affectionately make you a new “welcome plan“.

    What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest? 

    Although I have lived in San Salvador in previous years, it is still difficult to get used to the great storms and the tremors, as they call earthquakes here, since we are in the ‘Valley of the Hammocks’ for good reason and there are continuous ‘tremors’.

    From another side, due to security issues, going for walks is tricky, and getting around the city on foot, especially after dark. Not having that freedom of movement is hard to get used to, since in Madrid I walked a lot.

    The easiest things for me were the logistical issues of finding an apartment to live in for almost three and a half years. Thanks to my friend Xiomara, before arriving in San Salvador, I already had photographs of different apartments to choose from, because she took the time to visit them. In three days, I saw all the apartments and signed the rental agreement.

    Do you have any special experiences or anecdotes about your arrival/adaptation to the country? 

    Well, certainly the arrival in San Salvador was somewhat rough, since we left Madrid airport three hours late. This was because the plane burst a tyre before entering the taxiway. So, we returned to the starting point at the airport, fire fighters came and in the end we had to change planes. But the aircraft’s alarm systems worked…

    Also, as the flight goes via Guatemala, when we went to land at La Aurora airport in Guatemala City, they told us that we had to keep circling in the airspace until a big storm passed… so another 40 minutes late… So, all-in-all a 24-hour trip.

    So, you had lived in El Salvador before? 

    Yes, I had the experience of living in the ‘Tom Thumb of Central America’. I was managing two projects on issues of Central American regional integration and democratic security with SICA. Since the headquarters of the General Secretariat are in San Salvador, I moved here for different periods over five years.

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain? 

    We are working at the headquarters of the Directorate of Democratic Security (DSD) of the General Secretariat of SICA. So the daily tasks in the office means being in contact with the DSD team that carries out the overall coordination of the project. In addition, being in the same building facilitates communication and work with the people who make up the Spain SICA Fund, an instrument of Spanish Cooperation that also implements other results from the project.

    The team is now fully formed with two main specialists, the project manager, the three local people from El Salvador and myself as project coordinator. So coordination between the teams, with the Delegation of the European Union in Central America and with the beneficiary institutions, is vital to achieving the project results.

    After leaving the office there is always a short time to share with friends, attend an event at the Cultural Centre of Spain in El Salvador, do some sport or rest. So the routine is a bit similiar to the one I had in Spain.

    What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid? And with your colleagues in El Salvador? 

    The relationship with the FIIAPP team in Madrid, with Esther Utrilla, Sonsoles de Toledo and Cristina de Matías, is close and daily. In fact, with Esther, due to the seven-hour difference between Spain and El Salvador, we leave one another WhatsApp messages to keep ourselves up to date, in addition to emails. I am also very grateful for the support of my colleagues in the Strategy and Communication area, Iosu Iribarren and Laura Ruiz. As well as Sara Ruiz from HR.

    With respect to my colleagues in El Salvador, we have integrated quite well, we are gradually getting to know each other. Both Mariano Simancas, project manager and Lola Moreno, main expert and myself, are new to the FIIAPP, so we are learning together about the application of the internal procedures, and how to approach the implementation of the project. And of course, I have a great opportunity to learn about forensic topics and criminal investigation with them, since they have a vast and wide experience. So I’m very happy, because professional enrichment is guaranteed!

    How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate? 

    I value it positively. It’s a test, a calculated challenge. Having to leave your country, your city, family, your friends, that comfort zone – it’s not easy. But it means an evolution in professional and personal development.

    You live outside Spain, and you also make a small family almost 8,700 kilometres from Madrid. You see the things that happen in our country, in El Salvador and in the Central American region from a different perspective, and you experience cooperation in the field, and this all adds up – you learn and expand your way of seeing things.

  • 10 October 2019

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: Ernesto Prieto

    "FIIAPP is a well-recognised Foundation and that gives one a very easily attained feeling of belonging"

    Ernesto Prieto in his office in Peru

    Ernesto Prieto, coordinator of the project ‘Support for the forces of European Union law in the fight against drugs and organized crime in Peru’, funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, tells us what his adaptation to the country and its daily routine has been like in the first months of the life of this project.  

    How long have you been in Peru? How have you adapted to this country? 

     I arrived in Lima on May 16, so I have only been here for a little more than 2 months. The truth is that it has not been difficult because I had already started here as a ‘Young Aid Worker’ and it has been a bit like coming home. On the other hand, I have seen many changes since the last time I was there, a more congested city, with a lot of traffic and a great deal of businesses, with a lot of coming and going and more momentum. 

    What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?  

     What I found most difficult was the weather, because I came directly from my previous destination, in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, and it meant landing in the southern winter, always cloudy and cold, but with time one adapts to anything What I found easiest, was being back in a place which was familiar to me, even finding friends that I had left behind years ago, it is nice reuniting with people you have not seen for a long time. 

    Is this your first experience outside of Spain? If not, is this one proving to be very different to your previous missions?  

    I have been away from Spain for a long time, I have worked in several countries, besides having already been in Peru, it isn’t such a different thing for me. Perhaps the biggest difference is that in my previous job in Peru, I was linked to a project in the Colca Valley, a province of Arequipa, a place high up in the mountains, and now in Lima things are very different, like food, the weather and the services one has access to. 

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?  

     The work is not very different from a Spanish routine, or at least I think so, I have not worked there for a long time. But in the end, it is a management job that maybe similar to others that can be carried out in Spain. One thing that’s certainly true is that it begins very early so as to get around the problems of the 7-hour difference with Spain, with me trying to answer emails and calls to sort out issues as soon as possible. There is a lot of contact with partners and many meetings that help generate the necessary trust with the different stakeholders, it is a job that entails a lot of negotiation, of understanding in order, progressively, to be able to consolidate the processes

    What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Peru?  

     From the beginning, it has been extraordinary both with the team in Madrid and with colleagues in Peru. They are very professional people, who really do know what they are doing, they are very experienced. Likewise, my colleagues in Peru are very well trained and skilled, they know what they want from the project and are clear that the idea is to create stronger institutional structures, so it is very easy to work like this. 

    How would you assess your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate? 

     Working with FIIAPP is a new experience for me. At the beginning, to a great extent, I had to adjust to new procedures, ways of doing things, but I was always supported in this, which enabled me to integrate quickly. On the other hand, I have always had the opportunity to be linked to government cooperation, developing institutional strengthening programmes that enabled the implementation or development of different public policies. However, I had never had the opportunity to work in a European context, being able to share the work with officials from different nationalities and sectors is proving to be very enriching professionally and personally, with continuous learning. That is of great value to me, working as an FIIAPP expatriate. In addition, it is a well-recognised Foundation and that gives one a very easily attained feeling of belonging. 

    Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in the country?  

    Well, at the beginning, I mentioned coming from a Caribbean climate where summer began with very high temperatures, to land in a place with permanent and cold cloud cover, because suddenly, I did not have the right clothes to go outside, so imagine how cold I was until I could quickly buy something warm to put on. 

  • 03 October 2019

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “For tax administrations, their people are the main value they have”

    We interview Jesús Gastón, general director of the State Tax Administration Agency (AEAT) of Spain, who tells us about the importance of international cooperation in relation to tax agencies, and the benefits for citizens

    Image of Jesús Gastón during the interview

    How important is the Assembly of the Inter-American Centre of Tax Administrations (CIAT) for the Spanish administration?

    Basically, the objective is to analyse all the factors related to human resources since, for tax administrations, their people are the main value they have. Often, we talk about the importance of information in managing tax systems, but our staff is the best thing we have. We have to take care of them, we have to understand how to process the best professionals, get enough of them, and use their work and that of other organizations. In short, get them to help us move forward in an increasingly changing world.

    What contribution has the State Tax Administration Agency of Spain made to the CIAT Assembly?

    We have extensive experience in participating in international forums, we know the European and American experience, and we try to learn from others while also explaining the steps we are taking to achieve an ever more professional staff, better trained and more adapted to the challenges of tax administration, and what we do is share our experience with others.

    In the middle of the era of technology, where it is practically on a pedestal, it is striking that the reflection is on the human factor. How do the two pillars come into play in daily work?

    Technology helps because it allows certain conflictive workers to be able to work in a much simpler way, but it also constitutes a very important challenge because the staff has to adapt to the technological changes, since otherwise we would be unable to take advantage of those changes. It is therefore critical to analyse the two factors together.

    How important is international cooperation in tax matters, taxation, tax collection, collaboration between countries…?

    It is decisive these days because the world is increasingly open and global. We need to coordinate our regulations to avoid the occurrence of tax evasion, aggressive tax fragmentation worldwide, and the existence of tax havens. And then the tax administrations have to share information, exchange it because companies, especially the largest, operate globally, and for them there is no reference country, rather they have to deal with many. Then we find that companies are global, but tax systems and tax administrations are local or national. The only way to deal with this problem is to act in an increasingly coordinated manner and exchange that information.

    Cuba and its tax organization, with the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT), is making a great effort in moving forward on this matter. There is an exchange programme of experts from the EU and Cuba in which Spain is actively participating. How does it look to you right now?

    We have always collaborated very closely with Cuba, including, of course, in taxes. We have now been collaborating with the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) for several years to help them in this process of change that all we tax administrations must now face by training our staff and incorporating new technologies. We have been helping them not only with human resources, but also with collection, taxpayer assistance, improving legal safeguards, and with procedure, and, indeed, we will continue to collaborate along all the lines that are considered a priority by the Cuban administration so that they achieve a goal as important as providing better service to citizens while also controlling the economic situation of the tax system .

    In that sense, we always talk about social responsibility, the impact of citizens on tax policies. What are the benefits that citizens should take into account in their tax system?

    The main goal of tax systems is to provide resources to public administrations, since these resources are essential to providing services to citizens. Education, health and infrastructure depend largely on the payment of taxes, and what needs to be done is to help the taxpayer who wants to fulfil their tax obligations, and one way to help them is not only by providing the service, but also obligating those who try to avoid taxes to pay them.

    We talked about the impact of the benefits that the citizen obtains from having a tax system.

    The main aim of tax systems is to provide revenue to public administrations so that they can provide services to citizens, such as health, education and infrastructure, and what tax administrations have to do is help taxpayers who want to comply so that it is as easy as possible to fulfil that obligation. An indirect way to help them is also by obligating those who do not want to pay the taxes they owe to do so as a result of the tax administration’s monitoring actions all for the benefit of all citizens through better services.

  • 05 September 2019

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: Araceli Vázquez

    "The Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so."

    Araceli Vázquez y su equipo en Turquía

    Araceli Vázquez, Twinning project coordinator ‘on advanced methods in forensic laboratories‘ in Turkey, tells us what her adaptation to this country has been like and what she makes of her personal and professional experiences there.   

    How long have you been in Turkey? How have you adapted to this country?  

     

    I’ve been here for 3 months, I joined right at the beginning of Easter, since, being a Muslim country, for them it was not a holiday. My adaptation to the country has been very good, although the initial stage is always “cumbersome” because we have to deal with a lot of red tape and Turkey has a complex bureaucratic system. 

     

    What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?  

     

    The first month and a half of being without my children, who we waited for to finish the school year in Spain before joining me on this adventure, was hard The little one is 2 and a half years old and the truth is that it was hard for me to be away from him. Now that we are all here, we’ve passed the test! Likewise, it is not easy to adapt to living with a language barrier, not many people speak English and sometimes it is difficult to make yourself understood, but where there’s a will, and the desire, there’s a way forward.  

     

    On the other hand, it has not been difficult getting to grips with the country, the Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so. They love football and they know our teams better than me. Also, the group of Spaniards here, the embassy staff and other RTAs make us feel at home right from the start. Turkish food is excellent, which is a bit of a warning for me because on the previous Twinning project the RTA returned to their country 12 kilos the heavier.   

     

    Is this your first experience outside of Spain? If not, is this one proving to be very different to your previous missions?  

     

    A few years ago, I spent two years living in Los Angeles, as a post-doctoral student at UCLA. It was a wonderful time and for this reason I wanted to return to the life of an expat. They are different experiences because they also represent two very different stages in life. In the United States I was living as a student, however, I now have much more responsibility at work and also two children, which means that I cannot drop my guard at any time.  

     

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?  

     

    In Spain, I work as a physician at the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences. My job is to study the samples collected by forensic doctors and police in the laboratory and prepare an expert report with the result. Here, however, above all I have to manage the project, negotiate the curriculum, contact the experts and provide support in the training sessions that are carried out with relocated experts. It is a completely different but equally interesting and enriching routine.   

     

    As in all jobs, some days are better than others and sometimes you have to deal with the frustration that things don’t go as you’d like, but this in turn creates new challenges and also makes it motivating.   

     

    What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Turkey?  

     

    The FIIAPP team in Madrid is my lifesaver. Having no previous experience in this type of projects, it is essential to have the support of people who have a good knowledge of how the different administrations involved work. I have a pretty much daily relationship with the FIIAPP project technician, we are continually sending each other emails, papers and we talk on the phone. It is teamwork, even from far away.   

     

    In Turkey, I have two partners who help me with translations and management. In addition, the RTA counterpart and Project Leader are military officials of the Turkish administration and it is a real pleasure to work with them. They are very disciplined and work hard and want to make the project a success.  

     

    How would you assess your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate?  

     

    It is a great opportunity being able to participate in this project. Both professionally and personally, I am finding it very beneficial. Forensic laboratories have many different branches and the project covers many other fields that complement each other, which makes it very interesting because experts join us from all specialities. From a personal point of view, it is a very enriching experience as a woman who is, in civil and cultural terms, Christian.  It was quite a challenge coming to work at a Turkish military base. However, I can only be grateful for this opportunity which is turning out to be very positive.  

     

    Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?  

     

    Very soon after I arrived in Turkey, Ramadan began. In the middle of the night I was woken up by someone who was making an outrageous noise drumming along the street with the obvious intention of waking up the whole neighbourhood. The following night again there was that racket in the middle of the night and I thought about calling the police. In the morning, I mentioned it at work and they explained that it is a tradition typical of Ramadan. A person walks around with a drum, waking up people to warn them to eat and drink before the sun rises, when fasting begins again. Lucky I didn’t call the police and asked beforehand.  

  • 16 August 2019

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: Severino Falcón

    "Talks with other experts and learning about the point of view of the other side of the Mediterranean is a very enriching experience"

    Severino Falcón durante su intervención en el evento de lanzamiento del proyecto

    Severino Falcón, coordinator of the “Improvement of the Tunisian research and innovation system” project and chief technical adviser of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities tells us about his experience during his initial months in Tunisia: his first mission and his first experience living abroad.

     

    How long have you been in Tunisia? 

    Six months.

     

    How have you adapted to this country?

    To answer this question, I must stress that it is my first mission. So, in the beginning, I went carefully, but as the days have gone by, adapting has been easy, smooth and comfortable. A critical point was having an apartment to live in. Once you have accommodation, if you are happy living there, it makes it easier to adapt. In the case of Tunisia, having a small Spanish community to rely on was very helpful. 

     

    What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?

    First of all, my family. But with new technologies and transport, the distance is not such an issue.

    Another difficult issue is speaking Tunisian and … running. Outside the capital, there are plenty of nice places to run. But the city of Tunis is not very attractive for running. 

    The people here are the easiest aspect. They are very friendly.

     

    Is this your first experience outside of Spain? 

    Yes. It is my first experience. 

     

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?

    We are doing a project with defined activities. This makes it easier to know what to do. It’s new to me, and during the last six months, my daily routine has been focused on helping to get the project up and running. For this, the experience and advice of Raphael, project manager, and each supervisor, team member and an expert who participated, have been very important. 

    In the past I was on the other side of the project, that is to say, convening and tracking projects of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and the State Agency for Investigation.

     

    What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid? 

    Basically, my relationship with the FIIAPP is through Yessica, the technician who manages the project, who I talk to and send emails to every day. I work with her to find ways to include the activities proposed into the project’s framework. It isn’t easy, since ideas often come up that are not feasible (such as changing the direction of a mission). Nancy joined us recently, and she is helping with mission logistics and travel for the experts. In short, the relationship, at least on my part, is very good… Now you will have to ask Yessica and Nancy.

     

    And with your colleagues in Tunisia?

    I have a great relationship with the work team. 

    I speak to my counterpart every day and we get on well. With the project leader of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique (MESRS) too, though, although she is close by, since she has been appointed director general of research we have to organise meetings well in advance.

     

    How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?

    In view of my previous answers, I only have one answer to that question. Very good.

     

    Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?

    Every week and even every day is different. From the time you spend alone to the times when you can’t keep up with your work and social engagements. 

    For the time being, having conversations with other experts and learning about the point of view of the other side of the Mediterranean is a very enriching experience.