08 April 2021
The current health crisis is also an opportunity to improve cooperation focused on public policy discussions. A dialogue based on shared values that leads to measurable results and builds fairer and more prosperous societies by focusing on matters like social cohesion, gender equality and the green agenda
COVID-19 has shown us that pandemics and their associated crises require rapid, coordinated and, above all, global responses to protect people and address the socioeconomic consequences being felt all over the world. Although the virus crosses borders, the unequal impact it has had on the population stands out.
These disparities are evident in multiple dimensions and areas: the risk of infection, access to education due to the digital gap, inequality in access to health services and the ability to work at home. This inequality has been particularly notable in some of our partner countries, especially in Latin America where the United Nations estimates that real GDP has decreased by 8% in 2020 due to prolonged national closures, weak exports and the demise of tourism, which has undermined economic activities1 .
In light of this, the European Union has reacted by redoubling its commitment to its partners. That’s why the Europe Team has been set up as a global response to the consequences of the pandemic in our partner countries, supporting and addressing key issues such as social cohesion, human rights, quality democracy, digitisation, gender equality and the environment.
It aims to assist in the global management of the crisis, providing a joint, organised and coordinated European response; combining efforts by the European Union and its Member States – including cooperation agencies – and development finance institutions.
In May 2020, following the “Working Better Together ” approach, the European Commission launched a pilot exercise called COVID19 Round Tables led by the Delegations of the European Union in Argentina, Costa Rica and Ecuador in collaboration with the governments of each of these three countries. This initiative works to identify the demands derived from the health emergency, in order to prioritise them in a joint exercise with the government of the partner country to channel the response of the European actors in a structured and coordinated manner according to the capacities and speciality of each actor.
Thanks to the close work carried out together with the focal points of each country, it has been possible to pool the efforts of relevant actors in the different facets and levels at which the devastating consequences of the pandemic have been felt.
The objective is to provide a joint EU response in the partner country, strengthening actions for socio-economic recovery, green recovery, digital and food security.
The implementing agencies of the member states, such as the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Public Administration and Policies (FIIAPP) are part of Team Europe. Thus, the FIIAPP offers technical assistance to the EU Delegations of Costa Rica and Ecuador, coordinating the pilot round tables in these two countries.
After several months of working together, the progress made is remarkable and the lessons learned are of great value. Throughout this process of dialogue, the focus has been on post-pandemic recovery and on rebuilding better, with an eye on the worst affected sectors and groups.
Through specific dialogue in each country, with flexible methodology and based on the reorientation of activities already underway in the Member States, EU cooperation agencies and programmes such as EUROsociAL + , EUROCLIMA + , EL PAcCTO, Bridging the Gap are achieving:
- Greater coordination and coherence in Team Europe’s response
- Appropriation by both European actors and the institutions of the partner countries. A great commitment is observed on the part of all the actors involved, recognising the added value of a sectoral, multi-actor and peer-to-peer dialogue.
- A deeper, mutual understanding of needs, demands, interests and of how we can respond. For example, it came to light that the Green Agenda, governance, digitalisation and inequality are important topics on the bilateral, regional and bi-regional agenda of Latin America and the Caribbean.
This joint response has led to the creation of Team Europe, making it possible to offer articulated, coordinated, coherent and flexible responses to urgent needs such as the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Team Europe is determined that nobody will be left behind, and international cooperation is more important than ever to its success. We are in an excellent position to strengthen bonds and share know-how and experiences that will be useful to all of us.
We have an opportunity to make progress, cooperating based on the values shared by both regions, transitioning towards real social cohesion, forming reliable democratic institutions to drive the digital revolution, gender equality and to give the Green Agenda the final push that it needs.
Perhaps we can transition from this pilot exercise focused on COVID-19 towards a working methodology and relationship model for European cooperation and partner countries: progress from COVID19 Round Tables to Team Europe Round Tables, making the “policy first” principle part of a structured mechanism for joint dialogue, implementation and partnership.
There’s no doubt that this is a difficult task, but it is one in which FIIAPP is determined to play a part.
Let’s keep building our future together.
Mariana Fernández, Management Support Unit at FIIAPP
18 March 2021
Climate change has put three out of every ten households in Central America and the Caribbean at risk. Social vulnerability exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic must be added to this environmental vulnerability. Therefore, the implementation of comprehensive policies to reduce inequalities and alleviate poverty is a matter of urgency.Pueblo Nuevo, un barrio del distrito de Pavas en San José de Costa Rica
Individuals are affected differently by COVID-19. And it does not affect all territories to the same extent. Almost 60% of the population of Central America lives in urban areas, many of which are unplanned, according to UN-Habitat estimates. Neighbourhoods with high degrees of overcrowding and that are scattered, poorly connected and with hardly any services and infrastructures whose inhabitants have seen their vulnerability increased due to the pandemic. Specifically, the impact on informal settlements has been greater due to the inaccessibility of drinking water for proper sanitation, overcrowding in homes and the difficulty of access to health services. The pandemic has also had significant negative effects on the family economy since many people, mainly women, who live in settlements work informally. According to data from the International Labour Organization, 126 million women work informally in Latin America and the Caribbean. This represents almost 50% of the region’s female population.
“Since the pandemic began, the situation in the neighbourhood has been chaotic because we live very close to each other and up to 15 people live in very small houses. In my house, which has three rooms, there were three of us and now there are eight because my daughter and my grandchildren have had to come to live with us. I depend on a pension that the government gives me because of my disability, but it is very small”, Alicia Bremes explains to us from Pueblo Nuevo, a neighbourhood in the Pavas district of San José, Costa Rica. In August 2020, the districts of Pavas and Uruca together made up more than 15% of the entire country’s active COVID cases.
“How are we going to wash our hands if we don’t have access to water? Or how are we going to disinfect ourselves with gel if the price is so high?” laments Bremes, who has suffered the consequences of the pandemic at home. “One of my sons fixes cell phones and has been out of work for many months. I have another son with a disability who used to go to a psychiatric workshop every day and has suffered a lot because he no longer had anywhere to go. As he was nearly always out in the street, he caught COVID, suffered a very high temperature and had great difficulty in breathing, but recovered. But I have many neighbours, of all ages, who have passed away”, she says.
As Alicia Bremes explains, the situation in the poorer neighbourhoods is one of extreme vulnerability. “Many mothers in the neighbourhood had been working as cleaners in homes and were fired due to the pandemic. COVID has also reduced the street vending on which many families depend to be able to eat on a daily basis”, she says. Therefore, it is essential to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable groups and to try to cushion the effects of the pandemic that has quickly become a socio-economic as well as a health crisis.
In this context, the Council for Social Integration (CIS) asked the Secretariat for Central American Social Integration (SISCA), with the support of the Programme EUROsociAL+ of theEuropean Union, managed by FIIAPP, IILA and Expertise France, and in partnership with agencies and programmes of the United Nations, FAO, ILO and UN HABITAT, to prepare a “Recovery, Social Reconstruction and Resilience Plan for Central America and the Dominican Republic”. The Plan is a common regional roadmap and is made up of a series of strategic projects articulated around three axes of intervention: social protection, employment and sustainable urban development.
The Plan, which has been endorsed by the Councils of Ministers of Labour, Housing and Human Settlements of Central America and the Dominican Republic, focuses its efforts on reducing poverty and socio-spatial inequality, the most obvious territorial expression of which are the informal settlements, which are estimated to make up 29% of the Central American urban population. Despite national efforts over the last 15 years to reduce the population living in informal settlements, many people continue to live in this situation. In addition, there are risks derived from climate change, which exposes a growing number of inhabitants to the effects of extreme weather events such as hurricanes or landslides.
There is an urgent need to broaden our view and think of the neighbourhood as the environment that enables us to implement basic rights within the city, for which we will have to attend not only to the provision of housing, but also to ensure that these houses have the necessary infrastructures, services and facilities.
There are still many challenges ahead in order to turn the face of poverty and inequality into one of progress without leaving anyone behind. For this reason, additional financial resources must be urgently found for the implementation of the Recovery, Social Reconstruction and Resilience Plan, an instrument that will mitigate the effects of the pandemic and shape societies that are more resilient, socially more just and egalitarian and environmentally more sustainable.
Cristina Fernández, Senior Town Planning Architect of EUROsociAL+ and collaborator with Fundemuca
11 March 2021
David R. Seoane, a member of the Knowledge Management area, explains that FIIAPP does important work on global knowledge management as through its work to promote learning by administration bodies and support public policies that benefit people.
FIIAPP’s raison d’être as an institution is to promote learning between counterpart public administration bodies from different countries through the exchange and transfer of knowledge. The key raw material with which we work is therefore knowledge. We are a knowledge organisation.
Over the last few years, FIIAPP has made a firm commitment to ensure progress in the implementation of knowledge management as one of our cross-cutting priorities that allow us to grow as an organisation. This decision has led us to take important steps in the way we work that have allowed us to nurture our strategic planning and management, establishing synergies between the programming, monitoring and evaluation of public technical cooperation projects and other programmes in which we work. Throughout this ongoing process, we have always been certain that our roadmap toward a better FIIAPP inevitably involves the incorporating of innovation, continuous learning and good practices within our interventions.
We therefore classify the types of knowledge with which we work within the Foundation and that are indispensable to us. These are: strategic knowledge, methodological knowledge and procedural knowledge. This system allows us to define and organise knowledge that we consider critical to the development of the organisation’s functions and the achievement of its objectives.
Having useful knowledge at these three levels is key for our projects to translate into development results. In order to make better-informed decisions on a strategic level, we need to know the priorities of the international agenda, what kind of training is available to Spanish and European Public Administration bodies and what our partner countries need. At the methodological level, we have to use methodologies that ensure a horizontal, innovative transfer of knowledge that covers the real needs of our counterparts. Finally, on a procedural level, we follow solid and rigorous procedures that allow us to carry out economic, legal, logistical management etc. that meets the highest possible quality standards. In addition to effort and perseverance, we only need one thing for all this: knowledge.
On an ongoing basis, FIIAPP develops mechanisms and tools (guides, protocols, manuals, explanatory videos, information sessions, pilot exercises etc.) that allow us to capture, process and disseminate these types of knowledge, allowing us to progress efficiently and effectively. These three phases – capture, process and disseminate – make up the knowledge management cycle that the Foundation has adopted and that we strive daily to consolidate as the true culture of our collective work.
At FIIAPP, we believe that organisations learn, which is why we invest significant efforts and resources to improve our capacities to manage our knowledge better every day. This is the only way to live up to our essence and our true mission as an organisation.
David R. Seoane, Communication and Knowledge Management Technician at FIIAPP
11 February 2021
The SENSEC-EU cooperation project has spent 3 years working to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of Senegal's internal security services. To this end, many people have contributed their professional skills, one of them is Nuria Roncero, key expert in the border control and surveillance component, who tells us about her personal experience in this project.Picture of Nuria Roncero
All journeys into the unknown begin with mixed feelings. The uncertainty that commonly forms part of our life becomes clearer and more evident. They are the same sensations one has when starting a holiday going to a distant and unknown country. In this case, you have to add the professional responsibility you are engaged in when going to start a new project. Very exciting, because I love my work; I’m very fortunate.
This is how my trip to Africa began, with a suitcase full of many years of professional experience and personal anecdotes and ready to take charge of tasks that I had no knowledge about in terms of how border security and management is carried out.
It wasn’t about leaving my comfort zone, it was all self-driven.
After a trip in which my inquisitive look at what is different to me was mixed with looks back expressing the same thing, I arrived at my destination, Dakar, with my eyes closed because at two in the morning the darkness everything. The first weeks, in which I was bombarded with information, were followed by others which were more chaotic with border closures due to COVID, which at that time was beginning in our country and the rest of the world. All continents were affected and Africa was not going to be less so.
It was not easy. It wasn’t for anyone and it wasn’t for me either.
Africa has a different pace of life, different smells, different colours and different flavours from the ones I knew.
You have to dive into it all to understand the daily workings of a country that smile at you every day despite all the calamities and poverty. Interpersonal relationships also have their own codes, such as the fact that some handsome, well-built Senegalese man asks you about your family as soon as they meet you. A coffee with another female member of the work team clarified the matter for me. It is typical before being asked out on a date, to be asked if you are involved with anyone, whether you have children or not or any other type of personal relationship. This question is answered by naming family members or saying what one feels appropriate at the time, opening or closing the door to more intense interactions.21
Little by little I got to know all the people who were part of this project, Police, Gendarmerie, Customs, administrators from all the Ministries, personnel from all parts of the world who are working in and for this country, Spanish colleagues stationed here for one reason or another and who give you all their support.
And so, building professional and personal connections, supported by the technical team from Madrid, we were creating border posts in strategic places, police stations to fight against irregular immigration and human trafficking, as necessary for them as for us, hangars for police aircraft, river detachments to fight against all kinds of illicit trafficking, creating manuals from scratch to ensure that all the training that we have given to more than 400 policemen, gendarmes and customs officers becomes permanent.
We have trained ultralight aircraft and drone pilots and we have taught them to navigate and monitor, with new boats, the area of the “mangroves of Sine Saloum”, a very beautiful area, where every type of piracy imaginable goes on. We have made great efforts to ensure that there is a little more security in a country where “téranga”, the spirit of hospitality, is its watchword.
And after a year of hard work, having left behind my initial feelings of fear and uncertainty, I will soon be getting on a plane with no return ticket for the moment, leaving much of my professional experience and many emotions behind in this country. I can assure you that the suitcase I am taking back is loaded with unrepeatable experiences. It took me all this time to get to know the true essence of Africa and I am convinced that there is still much to discover and many codes to decipher.
But that will be for the next trip to Senegal.
Nuria Roncero, key expert in the border control and surveillance component of the SENSEC-UE project
21 January 2021
The MYPOL project has had to adapt to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the current situation in Myanmar in order to continue promoting the reform of its police force. María José Urgel, FIIAPP’s project coordinator, offers us an overview of MYPOL and the reassessment of its aims and activities.
MYPOL is a FIIAPP-led European delegated cooperation project tasked with providing support to the Myanmar Police, offering a preventive and effective service and respecting international standards, human rights and gender awareness.
In order to achieve this ambitious goal, two offices have been set up in the country, one in Yangon and one in Nay Pyi Taw. From the field and in coordination with the FIIAPP headquarters in Madrid, we have focused on several areas of police intervention: improvements to criminal investigation and crowd management, modernisation of human resources and professional training, improved accountability and legal frameworks and ensuring a closer relationship between the police, civil society and the media.
For a little over a year and a half, FIIAPP has also incorporated a gender perspective in MYPOL. Today, it has a gender strategy and a women, peace and security programme in place, mainstreaming gender in the five areas of intervention and implementing the entire strategy at the institutional level.
Four partner cooperation agencies cooperate on the project– NICO from Northern Ireland, GIZ from Germany, DCAF from Switzerland and CIVIPOL from France – who pass on specific technical knowledge to the Myanmar police with a main focus on training, preparation of procedural guides and protocols and awareness-raising activities.
The exchange between public administrations, a fundamental characteristic of FIIAPP, is provided by the Spanish National Police, which heads up the mass management area.
In order to understand the context of MYPOL, the country’s history should be taken into account. Much of the current situation has been shaped by long years of military dictatorship, a protracted civil war with various ethnic groups coexisting which is still to be resolved and big social and cultural barriers that hinder the equality sought for women. There is also significant poverty that has been accentuated by Myanmar’s internal conflicts.
Since 2011, the country has been transitioning towards democracy, a process that has yet to be consolidated. In recent years, ethnic tension in the north of Rakhine state, better known as the Rohingya crisis (the Rohingya being a Muslim minority in a predominantly Buddhist country), has seen a dramatic increase in violence in the area, adding to tensions between the international community and Myanmar.
COVID-19 and the initial underestimation of its impact took us by surprise, representing an additional challenge. Within a few months, many of the training activities had to be temporarily suspended due to restrictions imposed by the government. This also affected the joint dialogues between the representatives of MYPOL, the police and the authorities.
In addition, in recent months, the MYPOL project has had to work within a complex political climate prior to the elections held in Myanmar last November, with mobility restrictions due to COVID-19 and continued violence in some areas of the country.
Nevertheless, the ability to adapt to change and the creativity employed by the entire team in order to adjust the strategy for MYPOL has ensured that the implementation of our activities represents an important contribution to the country, without losing sight of the project’s initial objectives. After a great deal of internal reflection, the decision was made to focus efforts on the following areas, among others:
– The strengthening of our capacity within MYPOL in gender matters, seeking to ensure that the experts who lead the different thematic areas of the project identify the most important gender aspects on which to work and measure their impact. As part of this institutional reinforcement, we have implemented our own sexual harassment and discrimination policy which is mandatory for all MYPOL personnel and which has been accompanied by a series of awareness-raising courses.
– The preparation of information brochures and the consolidation of police action coronavirus protocols which have been distributed throughout the capital.
– The provision of virtual workshops to replace face-to-face activities.
– The preparation of election orientation guides for police trainers that have focused further on the protection of freedoms and human rights, respect for the media and the provision of a safe environment, especially for women.
– The preparation of forensic action manuals and protocols to apply gender perspectives in police interviews. Guidelines have been drawn up regarding police arrest, following international security and human rights standards.
– The creation of new bodies in MYPOL, including the Critical Incidental Management Team which is responsible for analysing the COVID-19 situation in the country and its impact on the evolution of the project.
– The renovation of police unit training facilities and the provision of the equipment required to carry out criminal investigations correctly.
As part of this drive to adapt to change, we have kept two elements very much in mind – the importance of establishing local alliances and the need to strengthen relationships with our four partners.
Local alliances have helped us understand the consequences of all these changing circumstances. We have increased the number of national advisers and advisers specialising in police and gender matters as well as strengthening our alliances with civil society, especially with women’s organisations that have worked on gender awareness within the police for many years.
Strengthening relationships with our counterparts has helped us to better understand how the different approaches and specialist areas of our partners can be used in a more strategic way in the face of the current situation.
FIIAPP has taken advantage of all the opportunities for improvement that have presented themselves, even in the most difficult moments for the project. We have learned that taking advantage of difficulties has helped us to learn lessons from the social change processes undertaken and identify our achievements, limitations and potential in order to improve our work, this being an area we will continue to be committed to.
María José Urgel, coordinator of the FIIAPP MYPOL project
07 January 2021
Alberto Morales, the chief inspector with the National Police and key expert with SEACOP, the port cooperation project, tells us about the progress made in the four phases of the European cooperation project, which is about to end.
Between 2003 and 2008, a notable increase in drug trafficking (cocaine) by sea was observed in Europe. The state security forces and bodies (SSFB) joined together to create what was later called by the police a “retaining wall“, which led to the usual transport routes being diverted to Africa as an alternative route.
The SEACOP project was born out of this context. The project required on-site visits to the producing, transit and recipient countries for the drug, requiring adaptation and consensus regarding the needs of all these countries in a project that contributed to this fight.
This gave birth to the SEACOP project, a project based on four main pillars: intelligence teams (MIU); port control teams (JMCU); databases and cooperation at the regional and transregional levels.
It is in Africa where the first efforts were initially focused after 2008 and where remarkable advances were seen. For the first time we were able, as specialists, to combine the efforts of the agencies operating in the three countries in which SEACOP was active: Senegal, Ghana and Cape Verde.
Language has always been a slight problem for them hindering fluent communication and even exchanges relating to experiences or working methods, but, little by little, through the different face-to-face encounters between them, they have managed to establish several communication channels between the teams.
The police specialists who participated in the project confirmed that there was a clear need to standardise the training given to the agents or officers taking part in the project, although many of them had had little contact with computers or the other means used to gather intelligence and carry out searches on vessels.
The activities undertaken in these three countries allowed the European Union to consider extending the project in a phase II, with appropriate objectives, to various African countries including: Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast, among others, which was a real challenge for all the project members.
Later phases confirmed the need to involve not only the countries that were the destination for some of the drugs produced in Latin America, but also to continue expanding in successive phases III and IV to other regions such as the Caribbean and the drug-producing and transit countries in Latin America.
The Caribbean area is especially sensitive to cocaine trafficking in pleasure boats, which is why SEACOP has established alliances with other projects already operating in the area, in order to enhance the strengths and reinforce the weaknesses, such as connections between the islands, training on boat profiling, elements that raise the suspicions of officers when they visit the marinas, teamwork and obviously to provide them with the necessary material to be able to carry out searches on boats without damaging them too much.
This same training, adapted to the needs of each country, was offered by specialists to the different officers participating in the project. Our experience, after more than twenty years fighting drug trafficking, has been put at their service and it is very gratifying to see how, little by little, they acquired the level required to grow the SEACOP family.
The producing countries are highly important to the project, countries like Colombia, with the experience acquired in its daily fight against drug trafficking, or Argentina, where the problems experiences along its river system are added to the problems at its ports. This was a challenge that has, obviously, been reflected in the work on both regional and transregional training, in which the countries each played their part regarding the way in which they carry out the work, both at their borders and at the international level.
However, the greatest problem we have encountered has undoubtedly been the turnover of officers in their posts, the need for a commitment to permanence has been one of the weaknesses that will definately be taken into account in future projects.
We are left with the impression of a job well done, with the pleasure of knowing that the necessary bridges have been created to carry out future operations to combat drug trafficking and, above all, of creating a network of contacts that is one of the greatest values contributed by this project.
We leave behind many hours of work, many cases analysed, and hours of training that have always given us a sense of satisfaction knowing they have strengthened the implementation of the tasks that are currently being carried out and that will, at least, continue in the coming years to be a reference in the fight against maritime cocaine trafficking.
Alberto Morales, chief inspector with the National Police and key expert on the SEACOP project