• 25 June 2020


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    “The global challenge is clear: the widening in the gender gap is a reality”

    Icíar Bosch, Jimena Cazzaniga and Ana Cirujano, FIIAPP colleagues who are also part of the Foundation's gender group, tell us how they see gender equality as being in danger at the global level due to the Covid-19 crisis.

    FIIAPP's Women

    It is a reality that the crisis generated by Covid-19 jeopardises the progress of the 2030 Agenda, especially the aspects linked to gender equality. In this complex situation, FIIAPP, through its know-how, is committed to not leaving women behind. As the figures demonstrate, women are more exposed to the virus and its social and economic impacts: approximately 70% of health staff in the world are women, as well as 80% of domestic and care personnel. On the other hand, caring for dependent relatives falls to a greater extent on women. As if this were not enough, it is women who represent the highest percentage of informal and part-time workers worldwide.

    FIIAPP can provide solutions in the form of public policy that take the gender perspective into account

    At FIIAPP, we have seen that strengthening public policies with a gender equality focus can aim to improve citizens’ lives. For example, during this crisis there is less access to sexual and reproductive health and a serious increase in gender-based violence. FIIAPP works in this field from different perspectives, such as supporting the creation of a Department of Gender Violence within AMERIPOL.

    On the other hand, the EUROsociAL+ Programme’s Democratic Governance Area has implemented innovative actions such as incorporating the gender perspective in systems to promote transparency and access to information, the differential impact of corruption on women, access to justice for especially vulnerable groups of women or assisting Latin American countries in implementing budgets with a gender perspective as an instrument to reduce inequalities.

    We consider that the need for women’s empowerment in times of crisis such as the current one is a central element when considering development strategies. Sometimes, the specific effects of a particular form of violence against them are added to this situation. Another example is occurring in the Sahel region, where women are seeing their rights being systematically limited. In the GAR-SI SAHEL project, FIIAPP has included a gender approach, not only to specifically protect women in conflict situations, but also as a commitment to the empowerment of women in the security forces and to increase the presence of women in these units.

    It also happens that the general discourse that frames the coronavirus crisis is profoundly masculine and riddled with warlike similes, in contrast, communication with equity should be present and extend to the use of an inclusive language that enables the visibility of women and girls. At FIIAPP, both in its communication department and in various programmes, there is a firm commitment regarding the use of non-discriminatory language. For example, the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange project to promote renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in Cuba, takes care to use inclusive language every time it communicates through an invitation, presentation, etc.

    This is why, at a time when the inclusion of the gender perspective is perceived as a secondary aspect, projects such as Living Together Without Discrimination are recognised as being valuable. The latter is an approach based on human rights and gender in which FIIAPP contributes technical assistance specialising in gender. After a thorough diagnosis, a series of tools were developed that allow all the people and institutions involved to integrate the gender perspective throughout the intervention. This enabled the existence of specific guidelines that ensure the incorporation of the gender perspective in each of the project’s tasks, processes, activities and results. As a result of all this work, the project has managed to ensure that gender-balanced candidate lists are positively considered in FIIAPP recruitment processes.

    But despite the enormous amount of information produced on the Covid-19 crisis, there are very few analyses that contain data on the situation of women, who are once again invisible. The gender impact of the various crises, including the climate crisis, is an undeniable fact. In the framework of programmes managed by FIIAPP such as EUROCLIMA+, initiatives that take into account the gender perspective are promoted, specifically through the collection and use of information disaggregated by sex, the establishment of gender-sensitive indicators, the creation of methods to facilitate the participation and consultation of women, as well as monitoring, evaluation and accountability from a gender perspective.

    As we mentioned before, women occupy a high percentage of precarious and informal jobs, many of them linked to unrecognised care tasks. The solution to the current crisis lies in repositioning these jobs and economically empowering women. For example, the Bridging the Gap (BtG) programme, being aware of such discrimination on multiple levels, is working to improve the employability of disabled women or those who have disabled children. Empowerment, as in other FIIAPP actions, is at the centre of BtG’s action to achieve women’s autonomy.

    These initiatives, selected from a series of proposals compiled by the FIIAPP Knowledge Management team, demonstrate that the raw material is there. However, it is necessary, on the one hand, to systematise and make this work visible, and on the other, to put this experience at the service of a gender strategy.  In this sense, FIIAPP is working, with the support of a group of professionals from within the organisation, on preparing and implementing its 1st Equality Plan. This tool has a double internal and external objective: to promote gender equality within the institution, as well as to equip the institution itself with the tools and processes that allow it to be systematically incorporated into the projects managed by the institution.

    With the arrival of the pandemic and the implementation of different emergency measures to face it, the global challenge is clear: the widening of the gender gap is a reality. It is our responsibility to work to minimise it, the solution is to be found in gender equality.

    Icíar Bosch, Jimena Cazzaniga and Ana Cirujano

    Project technicians in the FIIAPP gender team


  • 23 June 2020


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    “BioCubaFarma is the main business group in the Cuban biopharmaceutical sector”

    The biopharmaceutical sector in Cuba has managed to take significant steps forward in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. Darien García tells us about this below

    The expert from the Cuba-EU II Experiences Exchange project, Darien García Díaz, shares with us the important advances that the programme is making in the Cuban biopharmaceutical sector in the current context of Covid-19. He also relates how the programme has had to adapt to new circumstances to continue its operation and joint cooperation.

    Composed of more than 30 institutions, BioCubaFarma is the main business group in the Cuban biopharmaceutical sector. Its structure, which includes closed cycle centres, enables ideas to be generated leading to innovative products, their development, production, and marketing, it also promotes the training of young professionals through its academic programmes and close collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and the Cuban educational system. The main priority for the products produced in its facilities is to supply the national networks of pharmacies and hospitals, and secondly, they constitute an important source of exports that, due to their quality, have contributed to gaining a well-deserved international reputation. Areas such as cancer, complications of diabetes, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases are successfully addressed through its research programmes.

    The need to properly evaluate the efficiency of these products in terms of their costs and therapeutic effects using pharmaco-economic tools led to the start of a successful collaboration relationship with the European Union, through the Experience Exchange Programme coordinated by FIIAPP and the Cuban National Economic Research Institute (INIE). More than 8 actions have and are being carried out with international experts in the field during the 2018-2020 period, with the Carlos III University in Madrid playing a fundamental role in their coordination, leading to the training of 21 Cuban specialists who have been involved in achieving important objectives for BioCubaFarma. The main results include the economic evaluation of Heberprot P for diabetic foot ulcers in Mexico, which allowed it to be accepted by the corresponding regulatory bodies; the economic evaluation of nimotuzumab for head and neck cancer; and cost studies on vaccination programmes for pneumococcus and rotavirus in Cuba.

    In the midst of the current Covid-19 epidemic which has led to an international economic and health crisis, the identification of actions that will enable the accelerated implementation of programmes to combat the virus and adequate decision-making have become a priority for the Experience Exchange Programme and for BioCubaFarma. The international event “Virtual ISPOR 2020 HEOR: Advancing Evidence to Action” arose as a unique opportunity that is part of this strategy. The sessions included a plenary conference to investigate the results and economic aspects related to Covid-19, as well as topics covering the challenges for health policies, clinical decision-making and new designs for cost-effectiveness studies. Case studies were presented including the Singapore National Centre for Infectious Diseases and its Outpatient Screening and Capabilities Centre. In addition, the presentation discussed the strategies for detecting suspected cases during outbreaks and protocols for segregating patients with different risk levels to prevent cross-infection.

    The virtual nature of the programme allowed the participation of a Cuban specialist as delegate and an exchange between top-level figures along with access to more than 60 hours of conferences that will be kept as reference material for the Cuban company and other interested international entities. Additionally, membership of ISPOR was organised for the participating Cuban specialist, which allows access to leading publications on the subject, additional virtual events and exchange networks in this discipline that will have a positive impact on BioCubaFarma.

    The continuation of the actions from the Experience Exchange Programme with the European Union in the current international context, undoubtedly, represents an important cooperation action that will raise the scientific, economic and social standards of the Cuban biopharmaceutical company.

    Darien García Díaz, a specialist from the BioCubaFarma Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and counterpart in the Cuba-EU II Experience Exchange Programme.

  • 11 June 2020


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    COVID-19 and the prison system in Latin America

    Iñaki Rivera y Alejandro Forero, del Observatorio del Sistema Penal y Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Barcelona, cuentan su experiencia trabajando junto al proyecto europeo EUROSociAL+ en coordinación con la AIDEF

    Photograph courtesy of the Chilean Public Criminal Defender's Office

    This project seeks to promote access to justice and healthcare for people in prisons who today live in overcrowded conditions, suffering from inhuman and degrading treatment and even torture.  The experts tell us how the pandemic has further exacerbated prisoners’ poor living conditions, generating a prison emergency in which the right to life cannot be guaranteed, and they leave us with a series of international recommendations to deal with the problem.

    About a year ago, in February 2019, we published an article in which we reported on the work done by the European Union EUROsociAL+ Programme in coordination with the Inter-American Association of Public Defenders (AIDEF) in designing of a Regional Model of care for victims of institutional violence in prisons. At that time, we were already announcing a project to create a System of Registration, Communication and Comprehensive Care for Victims of Institutional Prison Violence (SIRCAIVI) in several Latin American countries. We hoped that if it was implemented as a new public policy, it might be very useful in promoting true access to justice and health (physical and mental) for those who may suffer inhuman or degrading treatment and even torture in jails.

    This project was recently launched by EUROsociAL+ in Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica, in coordination with the Public Defenders of these countries.  Those of us who have been working on these issues for years at the Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights at the University of Barcelona know the importance of permanent monitoring of prisons to promote a revaluation of the fundamental rights of people in custody. The project was already important in fulfilling that purpose then, but the current health emergency caused by Covid-19 in prisons has turned it into a priority.

    If a year ago we were already aware of the serious situation of overcrowding in prisons in Latin America, where the average ratio of prisoners to every 100,000 inhabitants was 387 while the world average was 144, one year later, we have seen some systems that have broken almost all growth records worldwide. Since 2000, while the prison population in the world has grown by 24% on average, in Latin America it has grown by 121% – 67% in Central America and a spectacular 175% in South America.

    Prison emergency

    But the problem is not only quantitative, but also qualitative, where this extreme lack of space is compounded by serious deficiencies in health, food and safety, generating unhealthy environments where it is easy for diseases to spread and where conflicts between prisoners themselves and between prisoners and prison staff also make prisons places where institutional violence is the norm. It is not surprising that we have witnessed the sad news of riots and fires in prisons resulting in the deaths of tens or hundreds of people. Not surprisingly, in several countries the prison situation has been publicly declared a “prison emergency” or an “unconstitutional state of affairs”. Therefore, if the region’s prisons have become a time bomb since the beginning of the 21st century, where their collapse does not even guarantee their inhabitants the right to life or physical and mental integrity, the appearance of COVID-19 only serves to accelerate the countdown.

    The combination of this new health emergency with the structural existence of extremely high levels of prison overcrowding in Latin America sounds an alarm that must be addressed immediately. Numerous international pronouncements have been published in recent weeks in that direction. From the United Nations, its High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has called out forcefully for a demographic reduction in prisons. The same has been said by the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. At the European level, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has drawn attention to the responsibility for ensuring the right to health in prisons. Regarding Latin America, both the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have published statements, recommendations and warnings about it. All these pronouncements (from organisations such as Amnesty International, Prison Reform International and Human Rights Watch) coincide on: the need to promote alternative or extra-penitential measures; the need to broaden the concept of the right to communications between these people and their families; the consideration that a prison term in the current circumstances and in countries with prison overcrowding may lead to the submission of prisoners to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which must be combated, and; the need to strengthen prisoners’ right to health.

    International Human Rights Law emphasises the “special position of guarantor” in which States find themselves with respect to the rights of people in prison. This means that it is their obligation to guarantee the health of prisoners, as well as to fulfil the measures required by free society, such as those of social distancing. But in overcrowded prisons, this is simply a pipe-dream. There is no alternative: public action plans aimed at drastically reducing the imprisoned population must be implemented.

    International recommendations

    The Magistrate of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the prestigious criminal justice expert Raúl Zaffaroni, states emphatically that we cannot deceive ourselves: “Thousands of human lives are at stake here and no one will be able to claim ignorance of this in the future, since we are all fully aware of the illegality of those sentences in such conditions of serving time, and if we do not do the right thing now, it is because the possibility is being wilfully accepted of the death of thousands of people, more than half of whom, in our countries, are not even convicted. We are facing a catastrophe and the states that allow the death of thousands of people in their overcrowded prisons would be internationally responsible, without prejudice to their authorities being responsible for large-scale crimes involving the abandonment of people. Let us not forget that letting thousands of people die, with a clear awareness that this would inevitably be the result of their inaction, omitting the urgent measures demanded by all the responsible bodies in the world, would be a typically wilful behaviour of mass abandonment of people, clearly characterised as a crime against humanity”.

    Faced with such a panorama, we believe that the implementation of SIRCAIVI should include actions aimed at reducing the impact of the pandemic in prisons in Latin America. Especially insofar as it can directly influence the concept of institutional prison violence. It is in this sense that the Public Defenders of Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica (where the SIRCAIVI will be located) can see that their role of protecting the rights of people in prison will be strengthened as they take on the tasks of registering incidents caused by the pandemic, monitoring their evolution, and offering information to these people and their families.

    Specifically, compliance with international recommendations can and should be monitored. These measures are also being demanded in European Union countries, with different degrees of acceptance.

    The pandemic is global. Avenues used to deal with pandemics must also follow a common roadmap, which is the one that emerges from the international recommendations. Their timely fulfilment, before it is too late, is not only a legal duty but an ethical imperative in which, as part of contemporary civilisation, we all have a great stake.

    Alejandro Forero Cuéllar and Iñaki Rivera Beiras, from the Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights at the University of Barcelona, and experts from the EUROsociAL+ Programme.

  • 21 May 2020


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    “Sometimes taking a step back allows you to take a firmer step forward later”

    Alma Martín, support technician for the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange project, updates us on how the activities programmed to promote renewable energy sources in the country have been reassessed. She gives us her view on how to transform the limitations caused by COVID into advantages for the project.

    Design of the Ciro Redondo bioelectric plant (Ciego de Ávila) that already generates electricity from marabou firewood

    Participating in the management of an international cooperation project is a fascinating job, although sometimes the rush and deadlines do not allow us to enjoy the work we do or to measure the great difference that its implementation makes for its beneficiaries. However, a momentous event such as COVID19 making its appearance in our lives upsets any plans and expectations we may all have. There is no SWOT analysis that foresees a context like the current one. And despite the seriousness of the situation and the problems we are facing, it is precisely now that an opportunity is arising that cannot be missed: to carefully address important aspects of the activities we are carrying out, paying more attention to them if possible and dedicating more time to them than ever, to ensure that when we can start them up, they will be as successful as we hope. 

    One of the most important activities carried out this year in the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange Project for the promotion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in Cuba, which we are working on at the FIIAPP, is the Cuba sustainable energy forum whose second edition was scheduled for June this year; the current circumstances have made it necessary to change the dates, possibly to September of this year. The Forum, organized by the Cuban Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Delegation of the European Union of Cuba and with the support of Fira Barcelona, will be held at the PABEXPO fairground area (Havana).  

    In the days before, a series of parallel events will be held in the city of Santa Clara aimed at promoting foreign investment in bioelectric plants (organized by the state group AZCUBA) with the involvement of the Universities of the Caribbean and Cuba (organized by the Central University of Villas) that will include a visit to the Ciego de Ávila bioelectric plant. 

    Taking advantage of this forced recess, we have been finalizing details to ensure that this forum is a once again a success, and offering Cuban regional institutions and universities a space for encounters and dialogue where more than 150 people will be able to exchange experiences and the latest sector know-how. Through workshops planned around four main topics (solar thermal energy, electric mobility, energy accumulation and energy efficiency), national and international experts of recognized prestige in the field will, together with Cuban institutional personnel and directors of regional and international organizations, address the current situation and development of technologies, as well as international advances and agreements within the sector, which will undoubtedly encourage the implementation of the country’s new energy modernization policy.  

    The Forum thus adds to the efforts of the country and MINEM to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Among the objectives of the new energy policy, in 2030 it is expected that renewable energy in electricity generation will increase by 24%, produce 7,316 GWh/year, replace 1.75 million tons of fossil fuel and save emitting 6 million tons of CO2/year in the country. 

    Sometimes taking a step back allows you to take a firmer step forward later and make the leap that ensures you achieve your goals. By overcoming adversity and taking advantage of the opportunity that is presented to us, we will contribute much more to this project and go much further than we had intended.  

    Alma Martín Pérez, support technician for the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange Project. 

  • 30 April 2020


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Shedy Plaza, from the Eurosocial+ programme, shares her thoughts with us during confinement. A text that invites us to open our minds to a calm and deep reflection on the changes that the pandemic could imply and the need for cooperation to continue contributing towards building a better future.

    Fotografía de la autora del artículo, Shedy Plaza

    In the almost seventh week of my confinement and ever since I recently discovered that, for reasons beyond my control, I have to work, I have witnessed, in my exhausted and even, at times, incredulous state, the distress caused by COVID-19, commonly called the coronavirus.   

    Sometimes I want to wake up from this nightmare but I can’t. I want to believe that it is a novel or a science fiction film, but it’s not, it’s real, and I find myself a spectator of the most sordid and unpleasant aspects of the challenge that is making us lose everything that we had achieved, everything we had dreamed of or wanted to attain. And I ask myself, what now?  

    I find it hard to believe that this so-called “crowned bug” will lead us to what the Anglo-Saxon world calls appeasement (apaciguamiento), to being spectators to what is happening, without doing anything, or almost nothing, and that this will lead us to an idealism that makes reality and disappointment collide. A reality we are seeing and/or each of us is undergoing against our own backdrops and the disappointment of waiting for things to change and being permanently on hold. 

    A few months ago I had the privilege of attending an activity organised by EUROsociAL+ in Antigua, Guatemala, at which it was possible to witness how different social actors from different social, political and cultural spheres talked about, compared and demonstrated how in different countries and different contexts inequality, mistrust, lack of transparency and resources and disparities in wealth and even corruption have tarnished democracies, generating a lack of confidence in institutions, and how they, at the same time, shared and sought synergies to continue fighting for a common project.   

    New actors, new spaces have always set the guidelines of the programme and, in general, of the Foundation, and it is these very guidelines and spaces that form the fabric that feeds cooperation, solidarity and mutual aid, where stability and moderation have produced and will continue to produce social transformations perhaps never imagined, where moderation and plausibility are based on everyday reality, achieved by taking important small steps and always with a realism that describes the social reality of where we live, weaving trust based on equal opportunities, a sense of belonging and solidarity. We are the weavers of the trust that awaits us, that invites us to continue working for our future among peers and for that of others.  

    New challenges, new purposes, new horizons, new goals await us.   This is what it’s all about, not dreaming, not idealising, but weaving the future together, accompanying strategic demands, continuing to add and support networks and work plans, where cooperation, in this case, is a vital and essential element, a resource, that leads us to come together and share the same loom, now more than ever. 

    Shedy Plaza, Support Technician EUROsociAL+ Programme Office  


  • 21 April 2020


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    If we want to learn from the COVID-19 crisis, we need a policy evaluation approach

    Marta Monterrubio, Public Policy Evaluation specialist from the Evalúa project, tells us about the need to establish criteria and parameters that will allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures adopted during the COVID-19 health crisis, to provide a better response in the future.

    Photograph of the author of the article

    When approaching a public policy evaluation, one of the first commonly accepted methodological steps is to analyse the logic of the intervention: How was the policy designed? Does a clear relationship exist between your objectives (explicit or implicit) and your results, activities and outcomes, and among all the interlinking elements?

    To address this complex situation, governments have adopted extremely different measures that affect very diverse sectors of society: health, the labour market, housing, mobility, taxation, and so on.

    But what are their specific, general, medium, short, long-term objectives? In principle, we might think that the main objective would be to save as many human lives as possible, to prevent the collapse of the health system, to enable the population to keep its rights and purchasing power. However, to make a rigorous, exhaustive assessment, we need to establish clear goals against which to measure progress, achievements and failures. Against which criteria can the adopted measures be evaluated to determine their effectiveness, that is to say, against their capacity to achieve the proposed goals?

    “Against which criteria can the adopted measures be evaluated to determine their effectiveness?”

     Of course, this leads to complex and politically and socially sensitive questions: What is the acceptable goal in terms of loss of human life? How many (non-temporary) unemployed people are acceptable? How many small and medium-sized companies can be expected to disappear? These are just a few examples.

    In order to carry out an evaluation of the effectiveness of the adopted measures, we therefore need out governments to:

    -Clearly define existing and potential social problems.

    – Based on these, establish a Contingency Plan, ideally, inserted into the Decree on the Declaration of the State of Alarm (so that it forms part of the Legal System), with a set of approved measures that address the objectives in a clear manner, also defining process and result indicators for monitoring their evolution.

    -Establish new measures to build a coherent master plan to achieve the objectives defined.

    -Design a thorough monitoring system with flexibility to modify measures based on the results obtained and the evidence collected.

    A mature society, the vast majority of which is behaving impeccably and following the recommendations deserves to know the parameters used by institutions to manage the situation for subsequent evaluation.

    If we consider an impact analysis in the strict sense, the difficulty lies in the absence of a counterfactual argument: What would have happened if no measures had been adopted rather than taking this course of action? What would have happened if other measures had been taken or had been taken earlier? Which of the possible approaches would be most successful to deal with the crisis?

    Every day and every hour that goes by, data and figures are being generated for drawing graphs and compiling statistics that evolve rapidly and are ever changing as they are analysed by country, by region and by continent. They provide valuable information and reveal developments on which to build hypotheses to test.

    In view of the data and the context, countries have adopted different solutions, but the existence of too many variables that are difficult to control (strength of health systems, baseline citizen health, population pyramid, cultural habits, life expectancy, etc.), are preventing a comparative analysis with the necessary rigour to draw robust conclusions.  However, we do have similar previous experiences that can give us some analysis guidelines.

    “The existence of too many variables that are difficult to control is preventing a comparative analysis with the rigour necessary to draw robust conclusions”

     Experts in the field have mentioned that during the SARS (2003) and influenza A (2009) crises, there was a breakthrough in research and the fight against these diseases. It is also evident that as the outbreaks were controlled and the emergency ended, the funds to continue research and development of different drugs either dried up or were drastically reduced, and these lines of work stopped. The work was unfinished. Unfortunately, we did not use those earlier crisis to slow the current pandemic earlier and better.

    One of the benefits of evaluating public policies can be the lessons learned. Hopefully an ex post evaluation of the current crisis will teach us lessons that were previously lacking and we will use them to build strengths that, without being aware of it, we are all building these days.

    The EVALÚA Project is attending to the new priorities of partner institutions to create a baseline that will serve as a reference point for  subsequent evaluation of current actions, with a comparative approach at the regional level.